Graphic by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

Today we speak with sociologists Rick Phillips and Ryan Cragun about “Why the Mormon Church has Declining Growth Rates in Utah and the World.”

We will be reviewing the following articles:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 1

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Part 2

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  1. Andrewattheveil February 1, 2020 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Interesting discussion gentleman, you stretched my vision of the future of Mormonism for sure. I have more hope for a better future for my grandchildren now. Thank you.

  2. Joy February 2, 2020 at 7:38 am - Reply

    In response to a comment one of your guests made relating to his discovery that alcohol consumption may not be all that the church portrayed it, I wrote the following.

    A plea to post and believing Mormons:

    First to post Mormons. After spending a day and a night keeping vigil with a daughter caught in the throes of alcohol detox, after watching her purge the effects of the alcohol on her young body dozens of times, after seeing her shake uncontrollably and describe the hideous hallucinations that tormented her, I ask you, I plead with you to reconsider your perspective that you are now free from what you might call arbitrary religious rules to abstain from alcohol. After all, you say, after leaving the church you discovered that your neighbors have a cabinet full of alcohol and they live productive lives, their children are happy, they are “responsible” drinkers. If you’ll indulge my need to be a bit pointed in this communication, there is no such thing as “responsible” drinking. I ask you to consider the toll in terms of human lives lost, relationships destroyed, brains and bodies decimated by the ravages of the poison we call alcohol. Regardless of whatever codes of conduct Mormonism imposes on its members, alcohol is a poison, biologically, chemically, scientifically a poison. It has no other effect on the human body except to poison it. I will defend your right to drink it, to do whatever you want with your body, but I would defend your right to drink battery acid if you so chose. A poison is a poison no matter how small, no matter how “responsibly” it is consumed. I ask you, I plead with you to reconsider your relationship to alcohol, not because it is part of a religious creed, but because, I propose, you have a social obligation to refrain from a practice that causes so much suffering. Support the millions of fellow human beings for whom the consumption of alcohol is devastating. I ask you, I plead with you to reconsider because, even if you think you can handle it, alcohol is still doing damage to your body in small, accumulating, incremental ways over the course of your life. A poison is a poison no matter how small.

    Second to believing Mormons. After watching the mass exit of many of our young people into a world they are unprepared for, after watching thousands of our youth ill-equipped to navigate a world based on such different rules, I ask you, I plead with you to reconsider the ways in which you receive and promote the injunction from the church to abstain from alcohol. There’s too much talk in the church of “following” the commandments, “following” the prophet. We need to be more leaders and less followers. Leaders in truth, leaders in knowledge, leaders in consciousness. Followers are often less than educated and less conscious of the “whys” of what we do. Unless we become conscious, sovereign, empowered disciples of Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, we are apt to be batted about in a brutal world. I believe Jesus Christ bought and paid for my soul in the supreme act of sacrifice, but I also believe he immediately deeded it back to me so I could stand independent in His kingdom, spiritually mature, a king or queen over my own body. I will defend the right of anyone to choose for themselves how they treat their body, but I want them armed with independent thinking and critical assessment abilities to make those choices. Believing Mormons must not be smug and self-righteous as they see their loved ones leave the church and engage in behaviors that cause them to suffer. We are complicit. We have framed our teachings and codes of conduct in ways that have resulted in many if not most Mormons living by these creeds because they have been told to, because they are afraid of eternal punishment, not because they do so consciously. I often hear in church the notion that God can do whatever He wants, that we are to obey Him because He said so. That just won’t cut it. This generation won’t accept that. God is God because He perfectly aligns himself with natural, immutable, eternal, transcendent laws that govern the consequences of behavior of sentient beings. Those laws must not be dressed up as arbitrary religious codes.

    To post and believing Mormons: We are all in this together. We are all faulty, struggling human beings making mistakes every day, but there are truths that transcend our differences. I ask and plead for all of us to commit ourselves, as sovereign beings, to discovering and living by those truths, failing and falling and picking ourselves up to try again. I hope and pray that, along the way, we will come together under the banner of truth.

    • Janene Pearce (Julene's sister) February 7, 2020 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      I was engaged to an alcoholic and know first-hand the misery caused by alcohol. My fiance was a member of the church when he was offered his first drink. Like so many others, he thought that it was all right to take “just one drink”. That one drink led to years of attempting to navigate life through a drunken stupor. It led to loss of jobs, run-ins with the law, a stint in a mental hospital, prison time, living in an environment of Hell on Earth and encounters with men who could knife you or take away your manhood without blinking an eye. He lost everything in life that makes life worth living, including a loving relationship leading to fulfilling family life. One night, he drunkenly stumbled into a canal, meeting his end face-down in three inches of stagnant, muddy water. Rulon was intelligent, funny, poetic and could play complicated jazz tunes on the piano – completely by ear. All this and more wascrificed on the greedy altar of alcohol.

  3. Deplorable February 2, 2020 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    John there are quite a few of your listeners that are anonymous they are in their 40s -60s many have been brought here by friends or family members who have left. We encounter them every day if you live in Idaho or Utah . Many have emerged from the prepper movement or the home school scene or some have arrived by way of rough stone rolling or the gospel topics essays. Over the past year or so how many bishops have been on Mormon stories. As Lindsey says there’s more than one way to Mormon. Be that as it is the trauma that these folks are going through is immense. Many of us also remember the trauma the nation suffered when Bill Clinton was impeached. That was very real to us . Adam shiff is making a mockery of a bastion in our democracy. No I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking about our balance of power and the three branches of government. Hillary delivered the presidency to trump with her downplay of the deplorables that was her mistake. But I think she is still so arrogant as to repeat it again. You made mention of a similar effect going on in the upper realms of the church . Arrogance is much worse than ignorance. Think about it this way . God blesses a religion even though it is way out there it grows exponentially over 6-8 generations buildings and infrastructure abound . God deals with the history and the coverups because the ground work is getting done . Arrogance is kept in check by a steady leak of information. History let’s say so the throttle really goes down . His church gets bigger even the face of membership decline but the infrastructure is there . The truth is just one honest utterance away for this church. I have lots of reasons to believe this is the case . The same people who scoff at trumps demeanor, really need to look hard at Bill Clinton and Joe Biden for that matter , come on who are we kidding, the working class of this country know better . And deep down I think you do as well . We should all just pray . After all that’s what the lord inspired Joseph to do . There’s no foul in that and we can all agree . But the assessment made by your experts was tilted heavy left and the church has had a steady stream of lefty’s leaving since the sunstone era . The jumping off of the right is what is really troubling to the brothers in the big chairs . And pandering is not very professional. Kind of like having Adam shiff be your leader in a modern day which hunt . Only it’s the nation as a whole who is currently in the dunking chair . I would encourage you to continue with you interview s they are encouraging and enlightening. But remember the reality of great leadership is knowing well those who follow . And understanding that success in the absence of truth will always be brought down to failure. I believe Mormon stories has saved many lives . And I believe encouraging our children to profess truth before complete understanding has cost us many many lives . It’s wake up time . And I could care less what king David did , or who lined up to tar and feather Sidney and Joseph, I want to see the here and now get better. I want to believe that there is a plan and we are all involved. What else …just some understanding. Thanks from a responsible deplorable .after all you do have a fledgling group of righties listening now and then . And it’s nice to know they have a small voice at Mormon stories

  4. Nancy February 2, 2020 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    As Africa is South America once was. As South America is Africa may become.

    • Mark February 13, 2020 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      What does that mean?

  5. Paul February 3, 2020 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    In response to Joy’s post……..whilst I certainly have empathy for your daughter’s addiction experience. To paint alcohol with such draconian measures could only come from a Mormondom perspective, and misses the myriad of other addictive and harmful things in our culture hidden in plain sight. Some of us are prone to addictive tendencies, which can make life difficult….however, it’s on us to manage them, rather than seek an absolute ban on anything potentially harmful. There’s plenty of studies showing moderate alcohol consumption to have beneficial effects.
    On the other hand, one of Mormon culture’s favorite vises, simple carbs and refined sugars, gets a free pass….even when being 100-200lbs overweight (not an uncommon sight in Utah|) and clearly “addicted” to eating….I don’t hear any demands to ban food!
    Of course, that would be ridiculous, but you get my point.
    Sugar could also be described as a “poison”, and is linked to a long list of ailments, including onset of dementia/ Alzheimer’s. We can find enjoyment in many simple pleasures, and all of us have to deal with tendencies towards being obsessive and over indulgent….banning everything potentially harmful is not a good solution…endeavouring to handle ourselves is . Isn’t that what we’re here for!

    • Joy February 6, 2020 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      The prestigious Mayo Clinic says:

      “Any potential benefits of alcohol are relatively small and may not apply to all individuals. In fact, the latest dietary guidelines make it clear that no one should begin drinking alcohol or drink more often on the basis of potential health benefits. For many people, the possible benefits don’t outweigh the risks and avoiding alcohol is the best course.”

    • Joy February 7, 2020 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      1. “Draconian” is the wrong word to apply to my post. Draconian laws are imposed from an external source; I’m advocating for voluntary, educated self-regulation. Mormonism made a mistake when they attached temple attendance to abstinence from alcohol. “[T]each them correct principles, and they govern themselves” should be the fundamental of all we do in the church.
      2. Food is necessary for our survival; alcohol is not. Food becomes addictive when we adulterate it in various ways and depart from the food on which we evolved to thrive. Moreover, the social cost from the abuse of food nowhere approaches the social cost from the abuse of alcohol.
      3. There is no pleasure derived from the consumption of alcohol, or any other deleterious substance, that exceeds the potential pleasure from engaging in activities with full consciousness and health and all of our human faculties.

  6. Paul February 7, 2020 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    So Joy, I’ll just say a few words in response to your posts here….. I’m not looking to tangle with you at all, neither do I have a need to be ” right ” on this…your opinion is all yours, and you’re entitled to it, my posts are simply a commentary. Addiction recovery from any substance is traumatic for the individual and the family concerned, and is a difficult road to go down…I empathize with you and your daughter.
    Even so, we can all find studies that lean more to what we would like to see. Some studies on red wine for example look to show some clear benefits of moderate consumption. I’m not really interested in those studies cos I don’t much like red wine,…now gin and tonic, well that’s a different matter! I drink it sometimes simply because I enjoy it, I have no idea on it’s health detriment or benefits, nor am I particularly interested in knowing them…I’m an occasional drinker and I’m also health conscious, a daily meditator, have my own spirituality and love life…I realize that getting pasted occasionally or regularly is not very good for ones health and not something that’s even enjoyable to me.
    The statement of there being no pleasure derived from consuming alcohol versus engaging fully consciously in activities, seems rather rigid and is simply not true….I only have a drink cos it’s pleasurable, and I’m fully conscious….I engage all aspects of my life consciously. Virtually all the people that I know drink alcohol and do so because it’s a pleasurable part of their balanced life.
    The word of wisdom was initially given as advice. It became mandatory in the early 1900’s….perhaps the church was looking to gain more control over the actions of it’s members? Taking a closer look at his life, it seems that JS himself liked a drink on occasions!

  7. Janene February 8, 2020 at 9:35 am - Reply

    It might interest you to know that there are reports from AA that more and more long-time “occasional drinkers” are becoming addicted to alcohol overnight, sometimes for no particular reason. It all looks lose-lose to me. Sobering thoughts.

  8. Cory February 22, 2020 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Great interview. Love it.


    Sorry, I should be less critical. I have also called out John for ec-SET-ruh, but alas, he is not the only one!

  9. Patrick Sullivan March 25, 2020 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Raised in Ireland and saw first hand the devastation alcohol has on society. I live in Canada which is a heavy drug and alcohol culture and the affect on the youth is worse than ever and older workers are being hired because many younger workers come to work hung over or drugged out or both and make many mistakes on the job which leads to accidents and property damage. Many cannot come to work because they cannot get up and so older workers like my husband are in demand because they actually turn up and do the job. My husband is in his fifties and wanted to work three days a week but he is working 5 days a week,longer workdays and sometimes Saturdays to make up for the young men who do not turn up because of partying. He does not have to do this but he feels bad for the young boss who has actually been devastated by his employees lack of skills and violent reactions when they are fired. He is going to quit soon as he does other work that is less stressful and many times more money. He is tired of playing dad and father confessor to people who are close to 30 and older. People say just one drink does not harm but no one knows if just one drink is the one that leads to alcoholism.

  10. Noone May 27, 2020 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Regarding careers for women as opposed to being in the home, perhaps the brethren have decided that all that extra tithing coming in is “good”.

    Our generation was preached to about no birth control etc, but now it seems most logical that all that extra tithing coming in has changed their minds.
    I always thought that God was the same yesterday today and forever, if he is the brethren are talking out the other side of their mouths because the money is just great.

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