Utah’s LDS culture weakens, making the state’s Mormons less distinctive

As the percentage of Mormons decline in Utah due to population changes and its least committed members leaving the fold, the LDS church is becoming more “sect-like” and ideological in a way similar to that of Mormons in other parts of the world, according to Rick Phillips of the University of North Florida. Since the 1990s and going up to 2013 (the most recent year for church figures), the number of defections in the LDS church in its heartland of the intermountain West has increased eight-fold at the same time when more non-Mormons have moved into Utah. In a paper presented at the mid-October meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Phillips argued that as non-Mormons move into the region, there is less stigma about leaving the church and not practicing the faith than was the case when the Mormon subculture was stronger.

He noted how the distance is narrowing between Utah Mormons and those in other parts of the world where Mormons are a minority and the church is stricter and more demanding, but also showing a high drop-out rate. Phillips finds that there will be repercussions for the changes in Mormon demography. Already there are signs the LDS church is investing more in real estate because of the likely drop in tithing among members. If the more conservative Mormons of Utah grow closer to a Trump-nationalist Republican right, it may also have an effect upon the LDS’ extensive work in Latin America over such an issue as immigration.