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Author’s Edit 8/18: The purpose of this article is to help Latter-day Saint leaders and members understand why a large number of Millennial members are leaving the church (I personally see Millennials leaving the church as a negative thing, and something I would like to prevent). This article does not suggest that the LDS church should change its doctrines or lower its standards to cater to Millennials. But, I do suggest that the Church can change some practices (not doctrines and/or standards) to better engage Millennials and improve the retention of Millennials. An example of how the church recently changed a practice to cater to and improve the engagement of a certain demographic group is they began allowing women to say prayers in General Conference. This was a change in practice and not a change in doctrine or standards. The suggestions in this article are similar in nature. My hope is that all members of the church will work together to help all who need the atonement of Christ to feel comfortable coming unto Christ by worshiping him within the walls of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About six months ago, as part of ward conference, my ward held a special ward council, with stake leaders also participating. The primary topic we discussed was what the ward could do to better support young adults and youth. As the discussion progressed, I made two observations. First, I observed a large age gap between those in the meeting and the demographic group being discussed. Most of the individuals in the meeting were from the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), a few were from the Generation X generation (born between 1965 and 1979), and I was the only individual that was from the Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 1996). Second, it became clear that most in the meeting did not understand the needs and perspectives of young adults and youth, and were thus not in a great position to support, serve, and reach them in a meaningful way.
The purpose of this post is to help leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand why Millennials are unique, what their needs are, how their needs and philosophies may clash against Latter-day Saint tradition, and what Latter-day Saint leaders can do to better support, serve, and reach a generation that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have a hard time relating to and understanding.
What makes Millennials
Before answering this question, it is important to point out two things related to research on Millennials. First, not all Millennials fit the “Millennial” mold or stereotype. While generational research focuses on the averages/generalities associated with different generations, there is great variation across Millennials. Second, while Millennials are unique from older generations, some of the differences are due to the difference in age common to different generations. Stated differently, while the needs, interests, and thought processes of Millennials are currently different than older generations, in many ways, the older generations had similar needs, interests, and thought processes while in their twenties and early thirties. For example, Millennials are currently more likely to change jobs than older generations, but that is a phenomenon that has always been the case for those in their twenties and early thirties, regardless of their generation. This is primarily the case because Millennials generally have fewer ties to others than older age groups.
The following summarizes some of the primary ways Millennials are truly unique from other generations. Millennials:
- Have worse health than prior generations at the same age (e.g., more obesity).
- Have a lower level of general knowledge coming out of high school (National Center for Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education).
- Need and want greater supervision and support (in general, but particularly in the workplace).
- Are less loyal – Millennials will not hesitate to seek opportunities to better themselves.
- Are impatient – Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification, and many have not learned social coping mechanisms.
All of these factors together have led to the general perception and reputation that Millennials are tough to manage, narcissistic, entitled, self-interested, unfocused, and lazy. But, these factors are not all bad. Because Millennials are less loyal and impatient, they are quite prudent.
Millennial’s View on Religion
Across Religions. Studies show that Millennials are the generation that is the least interested and active in religion in modern history. For example:
- Only two in ten Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
- Thirty-five percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
- Fifty-nine percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
- Of these, the most common reasons for dropping out include:
- Church’s irrelevance
- Church’s hypocrisy
- Church’s moral failures of its leaders
- The perception that God is missing in church
- Legitimate doubt is prohibited at church
While Millennials are less interested in church in general, those who do attend church demonstrate a different relationship with their churches and religions than prior generations in at least three ways:
- Millennials put more weight on a religion’s beliefs than they do a religious affiliation. Older generations that go to church identify quite strongly with their religious affiliation and are quite willing to align themselves with that religion’s beliefs. Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to identify with certain beliefs and then align themselves with a religious affiliation that supports those beliefs.
- Millennials want to align themselves with religions that put greater emphasis on caring about others, while older generations have aligned with religions that emphasize moral values and pillars. Millennials see a focus on moral values and pillars as too onerous, unnecessary, or more hindering than helpful in caring for others. Older generations focus on moral pillars and values because such pillars and values help them to “combat the adversary.”
- In general, adults seem to be aware of their spiritual needs, but they are increasingly dissatisfied with their church’s attempt to meet those spiritual needs. While this affects all generational groups, statistics suggest that not only are Millennials more dissatisfied with their church’s attempts to meet their spiritual needs, but they are also more likely to turn elsewhere when those needs are not being met.
Within the LDS Church. There is not a lot of publicly available information and research related to Millennials specifically within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I did find two studies. First, statistics from the Pew Research Center suggest that Millennials are being retained at a lower rate than older generations. Specifically, the Pew Research Center has found that the retention rate of those raised as Latter-day Saints in the U.S. has been decreasing substantially. In the 1970s and 1980s, the retention rate was 90%. In the early 2000s, the retention rate was 72%, dropping to 70% in 2007. Currently, only 64% of those raised as Latter-day Saints in the U.S. are still actively participating in the church. Second, in a study conducted by Jana Riess, a religious scholar, Jana found that many Millennials who leave the Church leave because they do not feel like they belong, not necessarily because they do not believe. According to Riess’s research, the top three reasons Millennials leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are:
- Disagreement about LGBT issues
- Feeling judged
- Not trusting leaders “to tell the truth about controversial issues”
(Author’s Note: The second point stood out to me when I substituted in a 16-year-old Sunday School class. I asked the class what were three things they would change about their religion to make it a perfect place for them. All the women in the room (including my wife, who was helping me) said they wished people in the Church were less judgmental.)
Reflecting on these reasons leads me to two observations. First, reasons one and two revolve around inclusivity – something Millennials value to a greater degree than (1) those of older generations and (2) moral pillars and values. Second, the third reason likely involves more than just not trusting leaders. This perception may reflect the large generation gap between Millennials and the top leaders of the Church. There has perhaps never been such a large age difference between the Apostles and those in their twenties and early thirties.
Why it’s important for church leaders to understand Millennials and their philosophies and tendencies?
Millennials are leaving the Church at a higher rate than previous generations, and there is little to suggest that this trend is slowing. To retain Millennials, leaders need to better understand them and adapt their leadership to more fully meet Millennials’ needs, which may require acting differently than traditional Latter-day Saint norms.
Millennial philosophies that contradict traditional Latter-day Saint philosophies. Latter-day Saint Millennials feel torn between seemingly contradictory philosophies and beliefs in their religious experience. This puts them in a position where they feel they must choose one or the other, or find a way to ignore the tension. The philosophies Millennials struggle with are of great importance to them, making the issues hard to ignore, and forcing Millennials to take a stance. I will discuss four such seemingly contradictory philosophies.
Upholding Moral Values vs. Inclusivity. The LDS Church is known for having many “rules” to support and promote moral values that are foundational to a healthy lifestyle. For example, we are encouraged to not engage in sexual relationships before marriage to promote chastity and virtue and we are encouraged to not drink alcohol to promote treating our bodies as a temple. Now, rules and moral values are good and important; but, it is important to recognize that whenever a “rule” is in place, that rule creates a distinction between those who follow the rule and those who do not. If a rule means the difference between being an upstanding member of the Church or not, the Church decides whether that individual should be allowed to fully participate or not. A topic related to this is the Church’s position on LGBT issues. If a member of the Church is engaged in a same-sex relationship or is a child of someone engaged in a same sex relationship, the rules of the Church suggest that they are not welcome to participate fully in the Church (e.g., engage and participate in ordinances).
While it is easy to see why morals, values, and rules can play a beneficial role for a church and its members, the fact that they create a division between those on the outside and those on the inside rubs against a strongly-held Millennial philosophy: inclusion. Millennials see inclusion as being like the second Great Commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Millennials have a hard time figuring out how to simultaneously (a) love others that are not living up to the morals, values, and rules of the church and (b) say to such others that they are not welcome to fully participate in and with the Church.
This is a deep issue and one for which I do not have an easy solution. But, it is important for those of older generations to realize that Millennials struggle with the pull between the seemingly contradictory philosophies of upholding moral values and being inclusive. It is also important that those of older generations recognize that they tend to value upholding moral values more highly than being inclusive, and Millennials may have the opposite tendency. Each philosophy has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Bureaucracy vs. Having a Voice. A bureaucracy is a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by non-elected officials, usually without the voice of the people. While we believe that Christ is at the head of the Church, it is largely a bureaucracy, being governed by non-elected officials. And, to a great degree, the bureaucratic structure is repeated at the stake and ward levels. This makes the Church a very top-down hierarchy, and it is a form of government and organization that older generations are more comfortable with and accepting of.
There are positive aspects of a bureaucratic form of government and organization, but it is a form that does not sit well with Millennials. This is primarily because it leaves those at the bottom (regular members of the Church) without a voice. Having a voice is something most Millennials have always had. Most of the changes in corporate structures over the last decade or so have been designed to flatten organizations and allow for greater employee voice. Organizations and organizational leaders know that if employees have a voice and can make decisions for themselves, they are more engaged, invested, innovative, and effective. When Millennials find themselves in an organization where the structure limits “their voice,” they tend to disengage and find institutions where they can have a voice.
Focus on Faith Promotion vs. Authenticity. For over 175 years, the Church has been fighting against adversaries to the Church. Knowing there have always been forces on the outside fighting against the Church and attempting to pull members away, the Church and its leaders naturally and understandably have sought to emphasize and promote all the positive aspects of the Church and its history. Simply stated, an understandable mindset within the Church has been: leaders and members of the Church should not speak negatively of the Church or bring up information that could be construed as being negative (particularly in a public or church meeting). There has been little incentive for the Church and its leaders to be anything but faith-promoting.
But, a focus on only what is good and faith-promoting goes against an important philosophy of Millennials: being authentic. This means that one is genuine and behaves in a way that is congruent with one’s values, preferences, and abilities. But, it also means that one owns both the good and the bad about oneself, and is willing to be open about one’s strengths and weaknesses, being both transparent and vulnerable.
Millennials understand that no one person (other than Christ), and no one organization is perfect and only good. Everyone and every organization has both its strengths and weaknesses and everyone and every organization has elements that they are proud of and elements they are not so proud of. When an organization focuses only on the good and its strengths, without simultaneously acknowledging and being open about the bad and its weaknesses, the organization, and its leaders come across to Millennials as inauthentic.
Preaching “Doctrine” vs. We Need Support. We are taught that church meetings should focus on “doctrine” (the core message of Jesus Christ as the Messiah) or preach “nothing but faith and repentance.” Further, there is quite specific guidance that only certain sources (e.g., scriptures, General Conference talks, and approved handbooks) should be relied upon within church meetings. Some of the rationale behind this guidance includes:
- Ensuring that false-doctrine or beliefs are not perpetuated
- Ensuring that members understand and espouse the core beliefs associated with the Church and the gospel
- The belief that the gospel and the teachings within the Church encompass all that is needed to gain salvation in the next life
It is plain to see the value and the importance behind this guidance. However, it is important to recognize that Millennials are individuals who have a lower level of general knowledge coming out of high school, and need and want greater supervision and support. Stated differently, Millennials need help with more than just their spiritual needs. In fact, for many Millennials, their spiritual needs come quite low on their priority list. Acknowledging this, Millennials are looking for and need people and organizations that can help them better navigate life and work through their emotional, social, financial, and spiritual needs. Millennials see churches as being able to help them with these various needs. It is important to recognize that the LDS Church is developing programs to help with a variety of Millennials’ needs (e.g., Pathway). But, Millennials have needs that are not likely to be met if there is a strict focus on preaching “nothing but faith and repentance,” and if leaders, speakers, and teachers are limited to certain “approved” sources.
Summary: In presenting these seemingly contradicting philosophies, I intended to demonstrate that there are contradictions and that they each have their own positive and negative aspects.
What do church leaders need to do to better support and retain Millennials?
While understanding and supporting Millennials is the responsibility of the entire LDS community, LDS leaders set the tone in this effort. I believe there are three ways LDS leaders can create a community that does a better job of supporting and retaining Millennials.
- Be open to breaking away from traditions and church “culture” In saying this, I am suggesting that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the traditions or “culture” of the LDS Church are often not the same. Millennials need the gospel of Jesus Christ and the emotional, physical, and spiritual healing powers of the atonement. However, Millennials may need the gospel and the atonement delivered to them in ways that differ from the traditional delivery methods within the Church. Traditional delivery methods revolve around being rules-focused, top-down, arguably inauthentic, and narrowly-focused (i.e., focused on preaching “nothing but faith and repentance”). Millennials respond better to delivery methods that are heart-focused, bottom-up, authentic, and inclusive of truth and light regardless of the source. When leaders only allow for traditional philosophies and delivery methods, without giving much thought toward Millennial philosophies, the message Millennials receive is that their leaders and their community is not supportive of them, and perhaps even against them. Such a perception is disastrous to a generation that is impatient and not loyal when the value is not being received. I am not suggesting that LDS leaders need to adapt everything they do to meet the needs and demands of Millennials, as Millennials represent just one generation within the Church. I believe LDS leaders need to be open to fact that LDS traditions may not be meeting the needs and desires of Millennials, and prayerfully and strategically identify adjustments that can be made to better address the needs and desires of Millennials. I recently heard of a singles ward in Southern California where a woman was called to attend all ward leadership meetings, including bishopric meeting, PEC, and ward council. This example represents a breaking away from “tradition” in a way that promotes Millennial’s values of inclusivity, the voice of all genders, and authenticity (male leaders may not always get it “right”).
- Understand the voice of the people, particularly Millennials. On one level, LDS leaders that come from older generations need to understand that Millennials have different perspectives and philosophies than they have. Thus, LDS leaders need to make the effort to understand how Millennials’ perspectives and philosophies differ from their own, without discrediting those perspectives and philosophies just because they are different. Perhaps this means admitting that you are out of your element with Millennials, and talking to them before they ask themselves “what am I still doing here?”On another level, LDS leaders should determine how they can allow Millennials to have a greater voice in their ward. If Millennials feel ignored or that their voice is not respected, they are going to feel like outsiders, and will likely find different social groups that will allow them to have a voice. My personal experience is that LDS leaders are reluctant to allow Millennials to express their authentic voice because it differs from the voices of older and more established members of the Church and this may result in conflict. In such instances it is important to remember the following from Elder Holland: “I would ask us…to remember it is by divine design that not all the voices in God’s choir are the same. It takes variety…to make rich music.”
- Strive to prevent judgment amongst the flock. Feeling judged is the number two reason Millennials are leaving the Church. LDS leaders must help members understand how their words and actions can cause others to feel judged, explaining that difference does not equal deviance. A recent blog post on LDS.org entitled “How I Learned My Worth Isn’t Measured in Checkmarks” is an excellent treatise on this topic. Collectively, we need to do a better job of focusing on the inward heart and recognize that outer actions do not always portray the state of our heart. My experience is that most everyone is trying her or his best with the tools and perspectives she or he has, yet it seems common that members are recognized (or criticized) more for doing exceptional “visible” things than they are for trying their best.
Most of the leaders in the LDS Church are either Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, and within their flock is a generation that is quite different from them: Millennials. Compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials have different needs and different philosophies. Millennial mindsets and retention statistics suggest that unless the LDS Church and its leaders (at all levels) understand Millennials and make changes to meet their needs and philosophies, Millennials are likely to disengage from the Church emotionally, spiritually, physically, or in any combination of the three. This article is an effort to help leaders understand the uniqueness of Millennials, how their philosophies differ from traditional LDS philosophies, and the actions they can take to better support and retain Millennials.
Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior and the Assistant Director of the Center for Leadership at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton. His topical expertise is in leadership development, performance management, and organizational topics that include employee engagement, psychological safety, trust, and fairness. He holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources from Indiana University, and a BA from Brigham Young University. Additionally, he is a former Gallup workplace analytics consultant, where he designed research efforts and engaged in data analytics to generate business solutions for dozens of organizations across various industries. He has published over 15 articles in various journals including Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Management, Business Horizons, and Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies.
great content, Kurt. I’m a tail-end of the baby boom guy; sometimes I identify more with Gen X and sometimes more with Boomers. But I have to say the millennial culture has rubbed off on me too; I find several of those values to be things I have adopted as well. But I also have a deep-seated longing for some parts of the LDS culture of my childhood. The Church was our lives. We all went to potlucks and softball games, whether we had assignments or not. We loved each other and cried with each other and had fun together.
When we started as a bishopric, we had impressions that led us to have a motto of “Welcome Home to the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. We had impressions that we , as a bishopric, needed to use all of our talent, personality, and spirituality to help people feel welcome in the ward. We needed to draw them in personally as a bishopric, so that they then could find the real center of our Ward, the Savior Jesus Christ. But we had to get them in the door first. We felt like there was so much centrifugal force pushing people to the edges of their busy lives that we just needed to draw them back to the middle through fellowship, service opportunities and spiritual experiences.
There is definitely some millennial thinking buried in those ideas! I think we have been able to influence ward culture quite a bit, but of course the individual things we have tried have had mixed success as expected. Reading your article reminded me that I need to get back to thinking (almost three years in) about how we are doing with this, and where we need to focus (or refocus) now.
Your content provides me with so many prompts that take me where I need to be. Thanks for all your work.
Interesting read, Ryan. I greatly appreciate the difference between culture & doctrine that, and as a Gen X’er raised in the church well outside of the mountain west, I will agree: we have work to do to change the negative or unproductive bits of LDS culture. I would hope the Millennials can also see the good that our culture produces.
You allude to a concern we old folks have about changing doctrine in order to be more “inclusionary,” and that is a very real, very important concern. Love, gentleness, openness, all are traits each of us should develop more fully. How to do that but still stand firm in our moral beliefs, beliefs that aren’t relative to the world’s beliefs, is the difficulty of this age. It is a fine line to walk, to be sure. I fear, however, that too many Millennials are engaging in sexual atheism, divorcing God from virtue and sexual morality, replacing “Go, and sin no more” with a more watered down “God is love.” Does that make sense? How do we counter a belief that seems to deny sin and the need to repent without being called judging haters?
Among the comments someone noted how well educated Millennials are; I would put forth that while they may be educated, these youth are without much wisdom and are sorely lacking a deep appreciation of the history of the world. Simply, they “know” much, but understand very little. There is a plethora of well-educated buffoons in the world. Being able to whip up a power point from information gleaned from internet sites is a far cry from fully understanding issues & formulating arguments that utilize the logic and wisdom needed to have an intelligent discussion that speaks to more than just feelings.
I would also take some issue with the idea that Millennials are all about inclusion. Take a look at the speakers who are shouted down, bullied, or dis-invited on college campuses and other venues, not to mention the rapidity with which condemnations are made about a persons or groups “goodness” or “badness” via social media. People are damned almost before the facts come forward. In other words, it feels like Millennials are just as apt to judge as we old folks; they just couch it in politically sensitive terms with a healthy dose of concern for feelings related to one side, but not the other. It is a highly problematic and concerning behavior.
Bringing these “youngsters” in (yes, at 46, I can’t believe I’m saying youngsters) & keeping them active and committed is vital to a vibrant, expanding faith, but are we going to be able to do so without turning the church into just another denomination that twists and turns doctrine based on the moral proclivities of a fallen world? I’m truly anxious to know the answer to that question.
Oh My Gosh!!!!! This is not a reply to anyone’s comment but I couldn’t figure out how to put mine so here goes. Do you really think it matters if you were born in the 1800’s, the 1900’s, the 2000’s or the 3000’s? NO ABSOLUTELY NOT.
To blame the church, the leaders, the programs, the morals, the commandments, the covenants, the Savior and His teachings because they don’t fit into your “generational years” is like needing to join a special group, like a gang, to feel included.
Stop blaming “the church” to bend to what are your needs and go read Alma 34:32-35 in the Book of Mormon (in case you don’t know where this scripture can be found). Rationalize all you want, but these truths will never change for your generation or any other.
Hope when it is your time to leave the earth, and who ever knows when that day will come, you will have fit yourselves back into the Savior’s love and eternal graciousness to you and all people everywhere. Bend yourselves to truth that has been on the earth since the Savior’s teachings began. Of course, people didn’t “fit” into His teachings then, either.
Loved this article. I found it illuminating and helpful. A baby boomer myself, I have felt the same way since joining the church.
I have also been very concerned with the rapid exodus from the church of so many members. Unfortunately, after reading so many of the judgemental and simplistic comments below, it is not hard to see why.
It is important to remember that the intent of the “rule” is far more important than the rule itself. Church should be a safe place where one can feel love and acceptance. It is too bad for so many it is not.
Perhaps we should follow Christ’s greatest commandment and “love one another.”
I HAVE 5 KIDS….IM A BABY BOOMER….AND I HAVE THREE THAT ARE GEN X’ERS AND TWO THAT ARE MILLENIALS ….MY TWO MILLENIALS WENT ON MISSIONS. MY OLDEST IS A GIRL BORN IN 1970 AND THEN THE REST ARE BOYS…BORN 1973, 1978, THEN MY MILLENIALS 1980 AND 1985. THEY WENT ON MISSIONS…SO THEY WERE taught the same things I taught my older children…I didn’t read the entire thing….but I was put off by the fact that it says we have to change things around to ***suit the millennials***….why….Gods word is firm….I say everyone is different…not just the millennials…people are just different…we think different…no one changed anything to suit the baby boomers…or gen x’ers….the gospel is the same today and forever….retaining people in the church….that sounds like other churches not lds…..im familiar with other churches..i was raised catholic and then became southern Baptist and church of Christ and studied with a few more churches…some had busses come pick up the kids cuz the parents didn’t go and they were fed donuts…I don’t believe …in changing things around to suit anyone…the truth is all we need and if they are ready it will touch their hearts….
Lash.Kevin. We must be around the same age as my growing up in the Church experiences seem like yours. I think the key was that the execution of activity was family based not “Church” based. Now it seems to be corporatised. There is so much information and activity beamed out from central sources that families are not initiating the point of fellowship in their own homes. Alot of activity is coming from staging prominent people who are gifted in speaking/music/IT/publishing, and people want to be where they can be seen to seen. I think this may be due to some leaders wishing to “lift” the profile of the Church. If I grew up today my activity would have been suffocated by all the proficient people. We now have so many capable and talented people in our numbers that there is a danger of them being selected for activity that drowns out the struggling hopefuls who are trying to develop a talent that is not so professional in its content. I would love to see the Culture return to the days of activity where even the most humble can be involved, home centred activity and ministration style activity. Let Public Affairs deal with their stuff and let the rest of us go back to grass roots fellowship. My last point is that I find it is difficult to find the doctrine where I live as it is drowned in lack of scriptural knowledge, Culture/clubism, personal interpretations and judgements which ultimately drives away the Spirit. If we don’t have an abundance of the Spirit in our classes, meetings and gatherings then the membership is weakened.
Well, I wanted to comment on what Carrie said. It looks as though she replied to this comment the way things lineup
I myself am a believer and the gospel being the same yesterday today and tomorrow like it states scripturally. You can’t change that it’s a fact
On the other hand sometimes people are very Petty on how they take the Commandments. They do not think through them as Christ would. I believe the Millennials as they are called and their beliefs basically fit into this. And yes it does matter when you were born because the world around you shapes you….
I never knew that I was considered generation x, but now I understand the age gaps a little better. I would have been at the beginning of that generation but strongly identify with a millennials. The reason for my identification with them is the mere fact that I take the Lord’s word for what it is.
We are to love everyone plain and simple. That means that we accept them for who they are we do not treat them differently in any way. There for a person whom is gay for example should be treated no differently than a person who is straight. With that being said, we can still believe that it is not okay, but that does not mean that you exclude that individual. That is theirs to deal with the Lord on, not ours.
By treating them differently and not allowing them to be included we are not loving them and Christ would not have been that way while he was here on Earth. Just like he treated the prostitute as if she was no different than the others
Judging is the biggest problem that we have in the church. I am a convert to the church and I have watched this happen on many occasions. I have watched people drive 40 miles to go to a different Ward because of comments that individuals did Think through before they said. The problem is they were closed minded and judging.
I would like to say that we have a wonderful bishopric in my ward. Recently we had the young couple speak in our Ward that it just moved in. He made sure to comment that he had never been allowed to speak in church because of his thoughts. He had told the bishop that he would speak what he felt. He would not get up and act like everything was roses and the church was the greatest thing on earth. He would speak his feelings which included how much he questions things as well as how hard he tries to find the answers and talks with the Lord on those.
This is not a bad thing because the fact of the matter is that we all have times of doubt and questions about our church, Christ and God himself. It is a battle that a man of Flesh will have, plain and simple. It is because we are human and we do not understand the things that only a God can. The day will come when we will be enlightened to that knowledge, but why we are here on Earth we will have questions and hopefully seek the truth.
Our Sunday school class is ran basically the same way. We all make comments and they come from every which direction. What I truly love about it is that even the older individuals in the class love the comments. They themselves have said it is made them think of things in a different way.
By stating how we truly feel and not trying to look better than what we truly are it does help to open the minds of others. The fact of the matter is is they might not be thinking of things in the correct way. Maybe it is not you. Maybe that is the whole point.
As members of the church as well as simply being a child of God we are two help one another in all ways and teach one another. We are to be a family in Christ. We are a support group and we would not drag our own family through things that we have drug our church family through.
Plain and simple…
Love one another.
Awesome article!! Very insightful!
DG, you took the words right out of my mouth. Very, very well said.
I appreciate the thoughtfulness and interesting presentation on millennial thinking. I haven’t done any of my own research nor have I recently read any studies of the baby boomer generation. Yet … I’m wondering how similiar/dissimilar all of this is to the baby boomer generation’s “hippie” era. Both seem to push against authority /structure’s because it’s constraining – or thought to be – of “free love” (1960’s) or non-judgmental relationships. Both eras appear to pursue “adapt to me” attitudes and function with their own exclusivity while proclaiming to be more inclusive than the “rule-based older” generation in which both have friction and must to live with. I suggest that much of this – while not intending or seeking to diminish its authenticity – is generational in nature.
Ron hit the nail on the head. There is nothing new in millennial behavior — they are just very immature& self centered. Hopefully they will outgrow much of this attitude. “Top down leadership” is closely aligned to priesthood authority (& less to bureaucracy) and maintains the integrity of our beliefs. Each ward “adapting” to their own ideas would be catastrophic to the doctrines & structure of the church.
When others are accused of being “inauthentic,” I wonder who is being judgmental?
I shared this article with three of my children that fit the millennial demographic. They quickly responded to many aspects of this article, concurring that they do see things differently than previous generations. What is important to this younger group of Church members is not to rebel against their parents or Church, but to be heard, accepted, acknowledged. I was pleased to hear how open and in unison they were when they listened to this podcast. It certainly made me think that I didn’t allow enough of listening and honoring their voices to be heard as their parent.
I also shared it with my LDS Institute faculty as this is our target audience. I am anxious to get their response. It has allowed me to think differently about how I approach my lessons and discussions.
The article was well presented and fair to all generations. I appreciate the chance to learn and become a better person within this Church.
Fascinating article. These concepts help me understand my own millennial children better. I definitely see the outlined values on display in their lives. Still, I feel some appreciation for Ron’s comment on the similarities with the counter culture of my childhood.
I also wonder how much of the attitude shift away from churches in general simply reflects current technological and economic realities. Many people from earlier generations held to churches and fraternal organizations because they offered strong pathways to social and professional advancement, and were major nodes in the social network fabric of the day. Millennials are the first generation to grow up in a world where a significant portion of social and professional advancement is available through online means. In this view, it’s not that churches are doing a worse job of meeting social needs but that churches now have stronger competition from other sources. So it should not be surprising to see some dilution among the millennial generation.
Fantastic article! Until educators at the public school level wake up and realize that “pushing kids through” (rather than allowing them to fail a class or grade and have to make it up) philosophy isn’t creating mature thinking young adults, millennnials will continue to graduate from high school less prepared for life. Outside of the purely educational aspect, the way we teach from primary forward needs to be changed. I’ve found myself daydreaming through Relief Society lessons where the teacher asks the sisters to “turn to page x and read paragrapah y.” No wonder milennials are bored, I am too!
Let them fail? How about teach them correctly so they won’t fail?
I came from a Methodist church upbringing… And my dad was a minister… All the beliefs that the millennial’s have in this article we’re also with my church. I came to the know the truth…. and here in and only in ….is the reason for no complaints. The difference is this is the true church… And until someone is converted and completely converted to the truth all the murmuring and complaining and demanding of special-needs will not solve it! They will go back out into the world and learn the hard way… in the mean time we just have to love them and tell them because we love them we expect more from them!
Testify Federicka! Preach!
I couldnt agree more with you! I myself am an older millennial, and i see my peers around me and see that most just want to be catered to, and if they are not, there’s a tantrum. (Where were our parents in disciplining us?!) WE want to hear were correct and everyone else is wrong, and its hard for me to see how the millinials can be catered to in church and not walk a dangerous line of apostasy. What really is needed is love… love love love. Love at church, and love and open discussion at home. Parents need to be willing to talk about these risky topics at home with their kids and talk about it factually but just covered in love and charity. Millennials need to learn its ok to be wrong, its ok to be imperfect and its ok not know everything, and all this does not start at church (but it still needs to be demonstrated), but at home. Parents (even if your kids are all older and moved out) need to see Christ with their parents and their parents with Christ. They need that kind of example and charity from people they know and love. The answer is not cater to my generation, but help them see and know Christ personally… that will change their perspective and motive for coming to church… they will finally come because they love Christ more than themselves. Christs love changes EVERYTHING
Great start to a much needed conversation. I do have a couple of points that I feel are important.
While Millenials do have a desire to work more with management I do not think that many Millenials would agree with the statement that they “need and want greater supervision and support.” It is my hunch that the reproducible assertion would be that they desire a communal management style wherein there is more discussion in company performance and ideas on improvements (rather than the notion that Millenials need more oversight).
Also, the idea that Millenials have a lower level of general knowledge… while it is true that Millenials tend to know fewer facts (i.e. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue), they are exceptional at research (give them 2 hours and they can have a researched PowerPoint on the life and times of Christopher Columbus). (As a side note, many are mistrustful of traditional testing practices that ban technology such as calculators as they do not represent a true assmesment of contemporary students/professionals. Contemporary assessment is moving away from memorization and towards logic and research.) Furthermore, Millenials are the most educated generation to live in this country in its history. Due to Millenial’s outstanding research capabilities and education, it is a mistake to both veer from authenticity (as you put it) and neglect millenials’ opinions on their novel thinking (as it often has research behind it).
Finally, it is important to add that the Millennial cohort is the most diverse cohort (race, ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, dual incomes vs SAHM, etc.) and thus homogeneous cultures/thinking found in faiths/cultures such as the LDS population comes across as suspect, inauthentic, and downright Stepford Wives. It also creates a stumbling block for the social programs of the church wherein only certain cultures/interests are focused on (can someone tell me why the heck the church got rid of their sports programs?! Sports, the great unifier…)
It is an attempt yet another to dismantle moral behavior rules to include a generations, the false understanding in this article is that religion adapts to people while in fact religion is about having the pillars and strong values to hold on to. Just because one generation or another has no morals or doesn’t like morals does not mean we should change the religion. Temple requires morally clean people, it would defeat it’s purpose if we suddenly loosened the standards to make people feel good. Personally i have always believed that it is ok to have people leave if they disagree. We cannot be galloping thru time changing religion for each generation. Certain morals are God’s rules not human, chastity, marriage between a man and a woman and basic Ten Commandments. Ordinances are meant for people who are ready for them and can fulfill the promises they made. Church is not to accommodate changing moral standards. Leaving church in droves as a protest is OK. It is free agency. Eventually before death most people have a epiphany and suddenly those rules take on another meaning.
I don’t believe Ryan is trying to indicate that we should get rid of important moral rules. I think he is simply inviting church leaders to understand the perspective of many millinials a little better. In my opinion it is mostly us, the millinials that need to mature and change. Understanding the beliefs that many millinials currently hold can give leaders a better idea of what they need to address and how they can help millinials be successful. I love how he invites leaders to prayerfully determine ways they can address millinials better. I also agree that we can do better at not judging others, but it is more important to remember what Elder Bednar has said about not getting offended. There are also some things in the church that tend to be more cultural and traditional than doctrinal. The prophets and apostles are constantly trying to address this. We can break down traditions that are less doctrinally focused and build up patterns of organization given to us directly by God. I agree with everything you said in your comment. I just wanted to indicate that in my opinion Ryan is trying to promote understanding, not a change in doctrine. Hopefully this article can be used to make a positive impact and not and excuse for millinials to demand doctrinal effecting changes.
My thoughts exactly.
When you look closely at the leadership trainings and the principles taught by the apostles over the past 30 years, you realize that it is less a structure issue than one of Boomers and Xers not listening to/understanding the said principles. The Church (the Apostles) know and apply and teach principles adapted to the concerns you raised.
I was born in 1991. I’m 26. I’m French. I’ve sitted in ward and stake councils ever since I was ordained an Elder, at age 18. And it’s been frustrating to witness a number of council members at both levels failing not only to understand issues, but to know about and understand leadership principles that have been taught by apostles for decades and which match the needs you’ve been discussing.
I also happen to be a primary school teacher, and so tend to focus my attention on people understanding things. There I must confirm what you said about people’s general knowledge. It is mind-bugging to see that in an age where access to information and education’s never been bigger people are so less inclined to learn and grow (up?).
But even then, the Church has been emphasizing self-reliance principles as a direct prerequisite to spiritual development, including both temporal and spiritual self-reliance. All taught in Church handbooks and leadership training (including in the way to teach the Gospel; ex: Ballard’s teachings on working in councils (early 90’s), worldwide leadership trainings (2002), Preach My Gospel (2004), Handbook 2 (2010), Come freaking Follow Me (2013), and so on…) . I maintain that it is a matter of membership catching up to and sustaining what is being taught.
But I see your point in the gap between the perceived needs and our people, and the perceived abilities to rise up and meet them. I’m about sure that the Church can’t replace families and secular education systems. I believe it’s vocation in that regard is more to inspire people to find means to improve their situations and that of their neighbors. Now, I know about inequalities. I’m a public servant in France (where Obama would be right-wing). And while I believe that, as Elder Bednar put it, “teaching is more than saying and telling”, and so we do need to find ways to reach those whose “language” is different (just look at the media library), I also recognize that teaching does not replace learning. In fact, teaching merely consists in providing an learning-friendly environment.
Lastly, I would suggest that some of the millenials’ preoccupations and cares are simply misplaced, and that answering their (our) demands and terms is not serving the Lord’s purpose, which is our progression.
When they say that “doctrine” needs to be emphasized, I understand “doctrine” as the nature and purpose of things, consistent with the revelations of God. For instance, teaching them to make the difference between “inclusion” and “moral relativism” is teaching doctrine. Helping them understand the Churche’s nature and purpose as the kingdom of God directed by Him to administer gospel ordinances on earth is teaching the doctrine that will put in their place and perspective the failings of its members, rather than focusing on making the Church human; I’m not saying that we should hide controversial facts, but that we shouldn’t make a big deal of them. We can’t follow to pull of the world to satisfy youth just because they feel the pull of the world. We must help them recognize the blessings obeying the commandments bring. That’s the doctrine, the testimony, and the only thing we can teach. Is obeying the commandments making you happier than not? If yes, how? Why? As for having a voice….again, the doctrine of the restoration, of how God’s work is directed on the earth. Millenials are pulled by the philosophies of men, they want “democracy” because it sounds righteous and it is popular but the church simply isn’t a democracy. Yet on the other hand, the Church provides many opportunities to participate at local levels , if they will serve; although I acknowledge that it isn’t the same thing to serve in BYU ot to serve in Laredo, Texas, or in Chicoutimi, Québec. Yet understanding the way the church works and why allows people to find their place, and shows them what they can do (ex: this website 🙂 ). I’m convinced of that.
PS: inclusion vs shame culture aka judgement: again, an issue that comes from members, not the structure.
PPS: If I understand correctly, your message is mainly addressed to prior generations now serving in the church locally, which means that we mostly agree.
Well I may be the only nay-sayer to this article. I do not have the academic or professional credentials of the author, but I disagree with several of the conclusions here. I am an older millennial (1989), so perhaps I belong to the older generation of thinking, but I don’t think that worldly studies from soft sciences should have so much sway on how we structure Church culture. The greatest commandment is to Love God and obedience to His law is a primary display of that love. Millennials may not think that personal morality or rules are a good motivation, but this is not a difference of opinion, it is just incorrect thinking..The second great commandment to love our neighbor which the author connects to the millennial attitude of “inclusion” cannot interfere with the first commandment. We have been thoroughly commanded in scripture to preach repentance in our meetings and follow the instruction of the spirit. If this doesn’t resonate with millennials then we should do what we can to help them open their hearts and understand it. These are not just mormon culture differences, a lot of the philosophical differences cited in this article are questions of correct thinking vs incorrect thinking. We don’t need to cater to modern philosophical viewpoints, we need to seek guidance from the spirit and trust God to reach the hearts of millennials and change them. We can work hard to identify mormon culture vs true principles and we can strive for greater authenticity, but we don’t have to apologize for church policy or revealed doctrines. We invite people of all ages and all world cultures to follow the same pattern that was established with ancient saints, search ponder pray and be loyal to the answer God gives you. All the rest of this pandering to the philosophies of men should be solely driven by the inclination and sensitivities of the spirit, not soft science studies. If millennials are being taught true doctrine, invited to act on it, invited to gain their own testimony, and still leaving the Church then it’s on them, we don’t need to pander to their incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Church is True and I don’t apologize for it, I put up with all imperfections of the Church and its people because I love God and he expects me to, so should they.
Im also an older millennial (1986) and I agree with you whole heartedly… I didnt feel all that great inside reading this article, infact, i think this article scared me. I cant help but feeling some (not all) the ideas in this article walk a dangerous line. We just need to love like crazy.. love does wonderful powerful things, it changes people and makes miracles. Love them (us) with Christ like love, and they will be drawn to the gospel like moths to a wonderful and radiant light.
I would just like to say, Amen, to that! As far as ‘inclusivity’ and the LGBT group – we don’t exclude anyone who lives the law of chastity whatever their sexual orientation. Diluting the doctrine given us by The Lord is the way that led that led generations in the Book of Mormon to destruction.
I’m a Baby Boomer and have seen a LOT of years of CHANGE…We all need to realize that our Church has NEVER changed it’s “traditions” to be popular with the worldly ideas floating all over the place…RIGHT ON, Thomas…THANK you!
Thank you for posting this article, you really have ‘hit the nail on the head’. Some of the young people I have met at church are just lovely, spiritual, and caring, but lackadaisical in being organised in their lives and not taking responsibility for themselves. They are not judgemental, they will just walk away if they are unhappy. Those who have a deep testimony of having the Holy Spirit, have stronger ties to the church. However I think we should all be following their example of being caring and kind and non judgemental, and support them whichever way we can.
The answer is in the question. You are posing the question, “How can the Church serve Millennials?” The question itself is the problem. Millennials don’t or won’t understand that Church is not about serving them (which is a Millennial viewpoint), it is about serving God. Church is not about being pandered to- it’s about being presented with situations in which you are challenged to step up and grow. Finally, you are making the assumption that these Church leaders in these other generations don’t understand Millennials.
Has it ever occurred to you that maybe these Baby Boomers and GenXer’s do understand the “Millennial philosophy,” we just don’t agree with it?
Exactly! It’s not about serving millenials’ wants; and their needs are to repent and live by God’s rules. After all, the rules are not made by the church leaders, but by our living, loving Heavenly Father.
We need to be clear about the ways in which labels such as “millennial” are helpful, and the ways in which they are harmful. I think the intent of this article is to help leaders, especially Boomers and GenXers, to realize that just because we think a certain way, that may not be true of some of our younger members. Understanding the differences in generational thinking can help us be more empathetic and avoid assumptions that lead to false conclusions and misguided attempts.
But labels can hurt, too. I notice that lately, the term millennial is more often used as a rolled up newspaper to smack people on the nose than it is as a way to build understanding and empathy. It is a criticism! Everyone has a lot more complexity and depth than any label can possibly reflect. We always need to respect that, and recognize that each of us has an eternal, divine nature that far transcends what generation, country and even family we were born into.
And by the way, I’m pretty sure Joseph Smith was a millennial. He has a lot in common with the attributes listed in the article . Brigham Young, on the other hand, definitely a greatest generation guy.
I am 23, so I am included in the “millennial” category. This isn’t going to be a popular reply, but I don’t think the church needs to change anything. It’s the members who need to reach out. The organizations of the church are only as good as the people on charge of them, which is why people feel more comfortable in one ward versus another, for example if one relief society leadership is more outgoing than another. If the members themselves were to be more caring and inclusive, there wouldn’t be as many in need of love and attention who leave to find it somewhere else. Those leaving because of hypocracy are leaving because they see the rest of the members preach our values and our guidelines, and proceed to knowingly break them, as well as judge others for doing the same. It’s the people that need to change. Not the church.
Stephanie, This is exactly the point the author is trying to communicate. There is no call for change from the Church, just the culture we create in each ward.
I love this. Thank you so much for posting. I was born in ’84 and am often grouped with millennials when I don’t feel like I agree with what millenials believe. This article not only helped me see my own beliefs in a different light, but also helped me realize I’m not silly for having them. I just have a couple comments on some things that have been in the comments.
1) My desire for people to be genuine, for the church to be authentic isn’t a call to discuss incorrect doctrine or dwell on untruth. However, I feel betrayed on a very personal level to have learned about Joseph Smith so many times in church and to think of him one way and then to have the essays come out which show his life differently. It would have been so easy to include the multiple wives in videos, to have discussions in lessons about translating the Book of Mormon and what it was like. Instead I feel blind sighted by things that are true that were never included in lessons by the church. Also, living the gospel is hard. It takes effort and work. My desire for people to be more genuine is for speakers and lessons to include more real life examples of how trials are actually hard and how you got through them. That is much more inspiring than calls to repentance as someone mentioned. Inspire change for the better. Shaming doesn’t work.
2) About this “calling the people to repentance” thing that’s being quoted. People is one thing, but we have a history of people without the authority to do so calling a person to repentance. I’ll sit through your message calling me to repentance but it isn’t likely to get me to change. Shame just makes people want to hide what they’re doing. There are studies that back me up. It will do little to inspire change. I would like my peers to treat me like peers, to have the church be one and have us call to change together. I don’t care if you don’t like that I wear a denim skirt to church and you find it irreverent. You have no authority to call me to repentance.
3) My desire for inclusion isn’t that I want you to tell me I’m ok in my sins, I’m not asking for homosexual temple marriages or women to hold the priesthood. I just want you to realize that no one is better than any one else. I’m a child of god and so are those who struggle with more obvious temptations than you or me. Including people in church hasn’t ever been about who is perfect, who is wearing the right clothes or who has the hardest job. We all have the same blessings and promises with god. We could go a long way in accepting those different from us, who are sinning or who have doubts. We are all children of god. And as far as women in the church go, there are a lot of improvements we could make in the culture of the church that would help a lot and are long overdue.
4) Having a voice is not something terribly important to me. I believe God runs this church and he will run it as he wants. However, we need to ask for more revelation. We won’t receive more until we ask, until we have studied and have proven that we can handle more. There isn’t anything wrong with asking, it’s accepting that’s key. And my generation isn’t good with no or even not now. I know.
@Leading Saints, I would have to disagree about you suggesting that this article is not asking the Church to change. For example, when you suggest in the article about a woman attending PEC and bishopric meeting as a good change, I would disagree. That is not tradition/culture for only the bishopric to attend bishopric meeting, rather it is clearly stated in Handbook 2 who attends which council/meetings of the church. I believe the ward in California you cited was not following the Handbook. The one exception I have seen is the Relief Society President is invited to attend for certain matters.
When you suggest that one method would be to cite other sources beside scriptures and conference talks in our teaching and talks as a way to change, this goes against the counsel of the Prophets and Apostles. This is not a tradition that someone came up with on a whim rather it is counsel from a Prophet. (For reference, the quote from the article was “But, Millennials have needs that are not likely to be met if there is a strict focus on preaching “nothing but faith and repentance,” and if leaders, speakers, and teachers are limited to certain “approved” sources.”)
Where I do agree with the article is the need for change in methods, but I believe that Heavenly Father and Christ have that handled and will tell the Prophet and Apostles (and local leaders) what methods to change and when. Just remember the millennials were God’s children before they were ours and I think He knows what they need in the Church more than what we think they need.
Great comment! Thank you! Ryan stated he is not asking the Church to change doctrine but some subtle practices linked to tradition and culture (including who attends what meetings) could possibly change. Handbook 2 suggests that the following people can participate in bishopric meeting: Bishopric, ward clerk, ward executive secretary, and others as invited. During my time as bishop I often invited the Relief Society president into our bishopric meetings to gain a better perspective of the concerns in the Relief Society. This article is a critique of tradition and culture which is rarely linked to policy in official handbooks.
Either way, I appreciate your comment and I’d be interested in hearing if you think I am missing something.
I love this conversation. Ryan brought up an issue in the Church to challenge us to think and promote dialogue. Personally I feel that an anchor in all of our lives needs to be a personal relationship with the Godhead and a testimony that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Contrast this with “punch card members” who go through the hoops and motions of being an active member without really building a firm foundation in the Savior Jesus Christ.
As a millennial, I would say that half of this is true. The other half is questionable, at best.
Ryan, very interesting insights into the thinking of a group I constantly strive to understand. I would like to read an equally thoughtful essay on how Millennials can serve and bless and help the church. I think about the prodigal son – there comes a time in each person’s life where they must “come to themselves.” When they do, they stop demanding, “give me what is mine, give me what you owe me” and instead start asking, “how can I serve, who can I bless, what can I contribute.” That is why very old men lead this church. They are seeking to bless. I read no articles on the elderly or baby boomers demanding that their needs be understood and met. Every group has felt like you describe at some point in their life, and those who have sought to know and become like Christ have eventually come to themselves, forgotten themselves, and gotten to work serving others. One characteristic of the young is that they like to be part of a cause greater than themselves. Many have gotten busy serving that cause – building the kingdom of God, that the kingdom of heaven may come. They have forgotten themselves and their demands and self focus. I beleive that is the true need of any LDS of any age.
Great article….and you have not included the feelings of women, whatever generation. Women are not ready to leave the church physically, they hold families together, they work in the church, contribute with their time and energy, yet many have left emotionally. There is a bigger and bigger gap the way women feel empowered, valued and listened to in the church due to women being highly educated, working, making decisions and being independent.
I have dealt with Millennials primarily in a non church setting, more as an employer. Fortunately, there are many exceptions, but for the most part, Millennials struggle because they have a sense of entitlement that I have never witnessed before and are able to be offended or get their “feelings” hurt at the drop of a hat. Yes, we have failed Millennials, but not because we haven’t coddled them, but because we have coddled them too much. We haven’t trained them from a young age that life is tough and compassion isn’t the same thing as being babied. It is time that Millennials quit putting the blame for their lack of faith on generations that have gone before and sacrificed everything for their faith and start taking responsibility for themselves and learn how to do a little sacrificing themselves. There is a reason the Lord commands us to preach nothing but repentance and God knows we al need it, not the least of which are the “what’s in it for me” generation.
This article makes some great observations about many of the millennial generation. What is doesn’t mention is what makes each of the generations different, and why is this one significantly so, which, I believe, is important in addressing the challenges to which the author is referring. There is a book called “The Fourth Turning” that actually discusses the generations and how they are cyclical in nature. I have come to the belief that the generational gaps are the natural results of living in a natural world run by the “natural man.” Those gaps aren’t seen or felt in places where the natural man is not in power. What I find interesting about this article is that it places the responsibility on the Church for keeping this generation engaged in activity. While there is definitely some part there, the real responsibility of our children has always laid upon the parents and the prophets have been emphasizing this for generations. God is omniscient and gives ample warning for coming times, usually several years in advance. The Book of Mormon was specifically written for our day, and while the teachings are from millennia ago, they couldn’t be more relevant than they are today. This process of generations we see today in the millennials is recorded in Mosiah and Alma–from the time of Alma the Elder to the generations directly after Alma the Younger. How was it handled? Alma 5 is a great place to look. Fortunately, while we have the Prophet and Apostles to guide us and lead us in these challenges, we also have the principles found in the Scriptures–something that families are exhorted to use and teach our children to *understand* its doctrine at a young age (D&C 68). While there will always casualties in this mortal journey due to the gift of Agency, applying true principles can only always be the lasting solution for any situation.
David, of all the posts, yours makes the most sense. i agree with you completely!
This article was off the mark. There is no millennial generation except for the standards that parents created for their kids. It’s a standard that was left unchecked and create this phenomenon. This need for every child to feel safe and his or her feelings protected!
Now, I am from the”baby boomer” generation but I do not have ridget lines that guide my thinking. I have always had a progressive way of thinking, even when it comes to the “Church”.
This group wants protection but also wants to tell me how I should protect them. It doesn’t work that way. There will come a time when they need to grow up ( parents die,they have a child of their own, or become abandoned by their peers). If we haven’t instilled the correct ideals into them (whether they chose to live them or not) they will fail and we will be held responsible by Heavenly Father. We don’t pay for their sins only the neglect of their upbringing.
When this so called group falls away from the Church but they have been taught correct principles, when at the crossroads, they will return and understand why we didn’t wavier in our teachings. If you have ever seen the movie SLC Punk, the end of the movie demonstrates exactly this point.
Now, I do agree that the leadership of the Church is a little out of touch with modern times and the tools needed to teach those that are not scriptorial geniuses , myself included. You can disagree and sit down with the Bishop or Stake President and discuss your differences. You can even write the General Authorities with the questions you might have about the Church.
Wow! Certainly something to think about and be aware of. I am with several of the commenters in that God and Christ are at the head of the church and pass their knowledge on to the Prophet. Changing the Church to suit this generation sounds dangerous to me. What if the next generation is even more disengaged? Does the Church again change to suit them? God states that He is the same today as he was yesterday and the same as he will be tomorrow. The passing whims of a generation should not change the Gospel in any way. I feel that the Church is always looking for ways to help its members feel included. Look at all they have developed and taken part in to help gay members feel included. Previously, someone said “love, love, love them” (in reference to members of the Church). I agree! But do not make changes to the “rules”. If we do, it won’t be the last time. There will always be rules in this world. Everyone, including Millenials, needs to learn to live with them.
I do appreciate and respect all of the research, time and dedication spent by the author of this mind opening article.
Norma. This is Ryan Gottfredson, the author of the article. I appreciate your thoughtful comment. But, I do want do bring up a common misunderstanding about the article.
Nowhere in my article do I suggest that the church change to cater to Millennials. And, I surely didn’t suggest that the church change its doctrines to fit Millennials.
What I did suggest was three recommendations:
• Bishops prayerfully think about how they can better reach out and support Millennials
o I gave an example of a ward that had a woman attend bishopric meetings (that is something that is allowed per the handbook, but many bishops don’t take advantage of that)
• Ward and stake leaders should do a better job of listening to Millennials
• Ward and stake leaders should seek to limit judging amongst members.
I don’t know about you, but to me, those suggestions don’t seem like “changing the church.”
It is important to keep in mind that the church has always changed things to better reach and engage different demographic groups amongst its members. Let me give you several examples:
• Formation of the relief society
• Broadcasting General Conference to the world
• Allowing blacks to hold the priesthood
• Adjusting garments types
• No longer memorizing discussions, and instead teaching by the Spirit
• Preach My Gospel
• Letting women pray in General Conference
• Letting women sit on executive councils
• Come, Follow Me
• Teaching in the Savior’s way
Why couldn’t the church or local leaders make similar changes to better retain Millennials? I assume that you don’t want members to leave the church. So, the article is designed to get us to think about how we prevent Millennials from leaving the church, and I think there are a wide variety of small changes that the church and its local leaders could make to better engage and retain Millennials. Here are some of my ideas:
• Develop an optional Sunday School class (like Temple Prep) that is designed to help members dealing with sensitive issues
o By the way BYUI has already instituted some of those classes in their religion department
• Allow a Millennial to sit in Ward Council if there isn’t a Millennial currently in ward council
• Hold an evening chat/fireside for only Millennials. Allowing Millennials to bring up any of their concerns
• Local leaders trying to be more authentic and transparent
If Millennials are more likely to leave the church than other demographic groups, why would we not do these things if they would help to retain them?
Millennials are not “the youth”. We are adults with jobs, families, homes and children. I am a millennial. I am well educated, my husband is well educated. We were trained to be critical thinkers, to evaluate sources, to know that not everything you hear and read is the truth. We came of age with the internet, we learned how much misinformation is present in the world. Do you know what is not new to older generations? Being distrusful and critical of the next generation. Yawn!
Prior to this, I don’t think I have ever commented on an Internet site in response to an article or a blog posting, and I really don’t plan on making this a habit. However, I feel there are three aspects of your post that deserve a response. I hope you realize that I am only taking the time to do this in the hopes that it will be of value to you.
First, I don’t really like the whole concept of naming generations as labels are just broad brush strokes that often don’t apply to individuals that have been given that label, although I do realize the convenience it provides in discussions such as these. But I do know who the world classifies as Millennials as all five of our children fall in to that generational category.
The first aspect of your post that I would comment on is your insistence on being considered an adult. In God’s eyes, I believe we are all children. Christ even spoke to his apostles calling them children. I am probably 30 years your senior and I still consider myself as a child to God.
Second, your comment about being a critical thinker and discussing your education in academic terms is concerning to me. I hope I am reading too much into it, but I have had too many people that I love lose their testimonies because it was very important for them to be perceived by others as educated and “critical thinkers”. I graduated summa cum laude and was valedictorian of my undergraduate school. I then did two years of post grad study at MIT before graduating from Harvard Medical School. I have done research in physical chemistry, biochemistry, immunology, nephrology, and endocrinology. Nevertheless, I would be frightened to call myself a critical thinker. The knowledge and intelligence that really matters comes by study coupled with faith and confirmed by the Holy Ghost.
Finally, you got your last point backward. The rising generation always distrusts the older generation more than the other way around. We do worry about the rising generation, because since the Great Depression, life has continued to be easier from a socioeconomic standpoint and the amount of leisure time available than the previous generation. This is true with my children’s generation compared to my generation, my generation compared to my parent’s generation, and my parent’s generation compared to my grandparent’s generation. Since sacrifice is an essential part of obtaining deep and abiding faith, my parent’s worried about my generation, and I worry about my children’s and grandchildren’s generations, but we don’t distrust you, we just worry about you and hope that we have succeeded in teaching the importance of this self sacrifice. As I mentioned in my first post, there are many many exceptions, but in my conversations with individuals in the church that are struggling with their faith, in the vast majority of cases, the individual has not put forth the effort to truly sacrifice to obtain the knowledge and faith that we need to survive the ever-present onslaught of trials to our faith. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, because God has said that He will try his people and we know that we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith. I sense that there are a fair number of people that underestimate how deeply we need to be tried to be purged as gold and silver. Sanctification comes at a very high cost, but it is worth every bit of that cost.
I wish I had time to pursue this conversation, but unfortunately I don’t as I have many many other responsibilities, so you may reply if you like, but I won’t be able to reply back, so please don’t take that as a sign of lack of interest in you or the topic.
Annie, yours is the only comment I saw that acknowledges the reality of what’s happening. And it’s from a Millennial. “We came of age with the internet”. “We are not ‘the youth'”. The church is going to have to learn and live the gospel better if we want to keep Millennials and their successors engaged. The difference is as plain as day, and it’s called the internet.
All generations are part of a vital and dynamic ward family. The millennial and generation Z are reached and influenced through technology and social media websites. In some sense they may circumvent the communication channels with which older generations are comfortable.
Christ went to the sea shore to teach. His organization and disciples attracted and taught many who were not being reached by the traditional Jewish church. Christ also taught in the synagogues and the temple. For our family to be more cohesive, we might all learn to embrace improved technologies and channels and traditional ones. Our ward families must be inclusive – welcoming and reaching out to all generations and imparting the Word of God continually without any respect of persons. (Alma 16:14).
Our leaders are prophetic and their initiatives embrace the needs of all generations. The youth are encouraged to be active in family history work. The self-reliance programs are multi-generational. ‘Teaching in The Savior’s Way’ and ‘Come, Follow Me’ are inspired. There is no generational bias in these church programs.
The suggestion by brother Gottfredson to invite millennials to attend leadership meetings is great. The metrics around retention will sharpen my focus in my fasting, prayers, service and fellowshipping. Thank you.
We all love President Monson. As a young bishop, his ward had 87 widows and later he not only attended, but spoke at each of their funeral services. How telling is that? Now think anachronistically. Consider the young bishop as a ‘millennial’ reaching out to the generation that preceded baby boomers. His service was so compassionate that they embraced his love. What a wonderful example!
So Annie, at least you know what you will be like in a few years. Just teasing, each generation has to find it’s own way. The amazing thing is, they usually end up in the same place.
I’m in my early 60s and see some of these traits in my own kids–which isn’t surprising, because I struggle with many of the same issues myself. I’ve never truly “fit in” to the Church either, and despite remaining active throughout my life have often asked myself “what am I still doing here?” It’s a good question, and for me, has a couple of answers. The first has to do with what I want from mortality and eternity. Despite the incongruencies and cognitive dissonance I’ve grappled with over the years, the primary doctrines of the Church (Fatherhood of God, atonement of Christ, repentance, forgiveness, love & service, Plan of Salvation, continuing revelation, priesthood authority & leadership) continue to ring true to me, and define what I want most. A few personal experiences have confirmed the validity of these things, despite continuing doubts and skepticism about some particulars. The second big reason I remain in the Church, is that I DO value and practice loyalty. I’ve made covenants and intend to keep them, so I’ll continue to “dance with the one that brung me.” So, even when I frequently find myself thinking (or saying), “That hasn’t been my experience” in response to some black-and-white, cause-and-effect ecclesiastical or scriptural declaration, I try to focus on the big picture and encourage others to do the same. I’ve found much benefit in Mark 9:24 & John 6:68.
Thank you! This is one of my favorite comments.
Unmentioned fact: Nobody who was born before the 1990’s came of age in the era of Facebook, the smart phone, Wikipedia, and Google. These concrete innovations have changed us older generations, but they are not a part of our core childhood makeup. For Millennials, they are core and key. These kids think differently and get answers differently. If we dance around that, we are wasting our time.
I love the idea of a regular Sunday class dealing with historical issues and other difficult topics. We LDS are so far behind in the field of apologetics, but there are a number of authors coming forward with some thoughtful & well researched books that can go hand in hand with the 13 Essays to broaden the understating of ALL members seeking faith promoting information, without the well-meaning but short sighted faith promoting cherry picking or white washing that has lead many to feel blind sided in recent years.
Part of the difficulty in overcoming doubts about the forthrightness or transparency of church leaders about such topics, which some may feel, is that propensity to judge everything in the past by today’s standards or today’s beliefs.
Can you imagine the social media blow up if word got out that Abraham was heading off to sacrifice Isaac or that Peter had cut off a soldier’s war unprovoked!? So much in history, because so little context is not taught anymore, it judged by what we think and believe now; that simply isn’t fair.
GenXer here. I have friends and family my age who have left the LDS faith. Their reasons include:
* Church’s irrelevance
* Church’s hypocrisy
* Church’s moral failures of its leaders
* Perception that God is missing in church
* Legitimate doubt is prohibited at church
Spot the pattern?
These concerns aren’t unique to the Millennial generation and it’s misleading to think that somehow the Millennial generation is special or unique. The Holy Ghost is what converts people whether they’re 12 or 100 years old. What we need to do is give people off all ages a chance to feel and experience the spirit. Procedural changes may be needed but they’re not going to convert anyone to the fatih long-term.
In the early to mid 1980’s I was in my late 20’s and living in southern Nevada. On one occasion I was asked to chaperone a youth dance. The music was so loud I had to put my hands over my ears to keep them from hurting. Plus the lyrics were not church appropriate according to the current church standard at the time. I approached the leader in charge of the dance about it thinking he would turn the volume down and put on songs that were considered church standard. His response shocked me. He told me that “If we don’t give these kids what they want they will just go down the street and find it somewhere else. At least we are keeping them here at the church.” I was shocked at the ridiculous logic. I left the dance because I wasn’t going to stand around for a couple of hours with my hands over my ears. I have seen the Boy Scouts of America get attacked by special interest groups that want the scouts to change to fit them. Why don’t people seek out or start their own club or religion that suits their needs? If you don’t like an institution that others like what’s the attraction to you? Don’t make a fuss and try to rearrange things to suit you. Keep looking, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, start your own. When you want to change someone else’s club or religion to suit your whim’s, that’s the epidomy of selfishness, not to mention the obvious irony when seeking for the “true religion”.
I see many are concerned about the “rules” of the gospel. There are many levels of doctrine and some do change based on the political world. This is a basic breakdown of levels of doctrine:
Core Doctrine — those essential for salvation, including faith, repentance and baptism
Supportive Doctrine — those that elaborate on core doctrine, but are not essential for salvation
Policy Doctrine — authoritative, binding teachings of the LDS Church involving application of core and supportive doctrines
Esoteric Doctrine — known perhaps by prophets or may have once been authoritatively taught in the church, but no longer are, and are not essential for salvation
The problem with a lot of millennials is that they want to change the core doctrine. They want the prophet to allow gays to marry in the temple. They want a man made church. They want to show the world that they care about people and that they are not concerned about values and virtues. They want to feel good about themselves. They don’t understand that the constitution was only written for a moral and righteous people It will not work for any other type of people.
After reading this article on Millennials, it has given me a clearer understanding of why many Millennials have left the church, their beliefs, and the differences perspectives between the older generation. I also think Millennials are somewhat narrow minded when it comes to the older generation. Millennials want everyone to agree with their philosophies and belief and center only on the negative perspectives of the church. There are negative and positive elements of the church.
I do believe that we need to move from some of the traditions of the church to reach Millennials but do not comprise the word of God to satisfy want they want. I believe the church can comprise on the delivery methods so that we can reach them and work on counseling them on disobedience and sin. The church must support and help them navigate life and work through their emotional, social, financial, and spiritual needs. Millennials have the wrong concept of love and as leaders we must be the example and teach God’s principles of love.
Millennials need to realize the consequences of disobedience and sin. The church must not judge Millennials but show grace and mercy because all of us have sinned.
I appreciate this thoughtful comment, and agree with much of it.
If you are interested in considering open-mindedness as people age, you might be interested in some of the research I have conducted on the topic: https://ryangottfredson.com/blog/2021/01/18/do-our-mindsets-change-as-we-age/
The Gospel is exciting when you believe! It crosses all generations and does not need to separate us! God does not expect us to be “ successful ,but to have faith” says Mother Teresa! I worked with foreign missionaries and American missionaries in other parts of the world… the American missionaries suffered greatly from an it’s day depression! Why? They are so competitive that they feel inadequate when faced with the unknown but that is exactly how we grow our faith! They cannot rely on mom and dad anymore … that’s a good thing! The Millennials have read all the anti-Mormon literature and bought it hook line and sinker. Why? Because it’s all based on intellectualism and nothing on the spirit. And if the spirit is not there in them it sure was taken away after reading it! Get the Spirit back into the Millennials by teaching the gospel plain and simple… Nothing more!