Studying Deconversion among Christian Groups and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints

“Why do they leave and what impact does leaving have? ”

Team Members/Contributors

Ines Wenger Jindra Idaho State University Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

Various reasons for deconversion have been found, ranging from intellectual to moral concerns and reasons of personal development. In this study, I study deconverts from specific Christian denominations (conservative Christian, Catholic, and mainline Protestant churches), and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Given that broad categories of reasons for deconversion have been established, why do they leave their church and religion, and how do their biographies and paths differ from those who stay in their respective religious groups? What are the psychological and social consequences of leaving the faith and the church for those who leave? What are the implications we can derive from the findings of this study for deconverts themselves, for the respective religious groups, and their retention efforts?

In order to answer these timely questions, I will a) conduct 40 narrative biographical interviews with deconverts from several Christian denominations and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The narrative biographical interviews will take place in person in two cities in Idaho and Utah each, unless renewed Covid-19 restrictions make it necessary to hold them via zoom, or a participant prefers zoom. A major goal of the narrative biographical interview method is to enable people to tell their life stories or narratives and better understand their biographical trajectory. The idea is to give interviewees the opportunity to narrate their life stories the way they see fit without having to follow a prescribed script. Based on the analysis, the researcher establishes a detailed biography by examining the major steps in a person’s life as told by themselves, eventually leading to a view of the interviewee’s biographical trajectory [Verlaufskurve] (Schütze, 1983). In addition, I will b) conduct 20 semi-structured interviews with pastors and other church officials, and c) engage in participant observation of church services and selected events.