I am quite amazed at the number of people who are leaving the LDS Church over historical, doctrinal, and social issues (especially the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage), but I am even more surprised by the major shift that is taking place in the attitudes of active members who remain in the Church. It is estimated that over half of the members in the US no longer agree with the Church’s prohibition of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage. These numbers come from a study released in May 2018 by the Public Religion Research Institute.
“The survey found that 40 percent of Mormons in the United States supported gay marriage in 2017, up from 27 percent in 2014.
“Among Mormons between the ages of 18-29, the acceptance is 52 percent. That’s up from 43 percent in 2014.”
In just three years, 2014-2017, there has been a huge increase, with no sign of abating. While 40% of US Mormons supported same-sex marriage in 2017, over half of younger Mormons were in support. We can safely assume that these increases have only continued to increase in 2018 as well.
What is the most surprising is that these approval numbers keep going up year after year, despite the efforts of Church leaders, championed by President Oaks, to shame and quash these rebellious attitudes. Support for same-sex marriage continues to rise among members, even when the leadership of the Church is making it very clear that the prophet has spoken and that same-sex marriage is to be denounced and shamed. The November 2015 policy directed that members who enter into same-sex marriages are to be considered “apostates” and are subject to discipline and likely excommunication.
These aggressive efforts by the leaders have done little to stop the shift of attitudes of Church members, in clear defiance of the authority of the Church hierarchy. In fact, the November 2015 policy seems to have only increased membership support of same-sex marriage and done little to thwart it. This reveals that a growing number of rank and file members of the Church are entering the ranks of what is being called by some “Middle Way Mormonism”. Middle Way Mormonism seems to represent for most people a sense of staying connected the Church and its patterns of devotion, without fully ascribing to the truth claims and absolute authority of Church leaders.
If the same-sex marriage issue is any indication, we can only assume that there may be many other issues that are causing members to not be fully “obedient” to the Prophet and his associates. Members today, especially the young members, are not going to follow blindly and will stand in opposition to Church positions that are contrary to their fundamental beliefs of love for your fellow mankind, and basic core values of human decency.