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Jim Valentine/Malin Jacobs Correspondence


Introduction and Background of this Correspondence

In late 1986, during the open house period of the Denver temple, a number of anti-Mormon groups flocked to Denver for their usual anti-temple picketing activities. One such group was led by Jim Valentine, who at the time was, I believe, associated with the late "Dr." Walter Martin. I held several long conversations with Mr. Valentine while he was "on duty" outside the temple gates. My motivation for these conversations was two-fold:

1. I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of anti-Mormon objections with Mr. Valentine to demonstrate their nonsensical aspects. I believe I was somewhat successful in this goal, though of course, I didnít change Mr. Valentineís mind on how evil the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supposedly is.

2. Any time Mr. Valentine spent with me could not be spent handing out tracts or talking to those who came to the open house out of genuine interest in the church and/or the function of LDS temples..

Some time after he left town, Mr. Valentine sent me a paper written by one Rick Branch on the social fruits of the Church of Jesus Christ. Mr. Branch has been active in anti-Mormon circles, and the purpose of his paper is to show that socially (alcohol consumption, divorce, out-of-wedlock births, etc.) members of the Church of Jesus Christ are no better, and in some cases may be worse, than their non-LDS neighbors.

After reading the paper, I did my own research into the divorce information provided by Mr. Branch, and found his conclusions seriously wanting. I sent my methodology and conclusions to Mr. Valentine in the letter below, along with photocopies of the documentation.

I have had no further correspondence with Mr. Valentine.


7022 S. Dexter St.
Littleton, CO 80122
February 17, 1987

Jim Valentine
P.O. Box 13482
Milwaukee, WI 53213

Dear Jim,

I received your package on Oct. 5.  Thank you for sending it.   I have a few preliminary comments to make about Rick Branch's paper.  I am inclined to do a detailed analysis of the way he handles his evidence.  I find that he is interested primarily in creating an impression that is consistent with his idea of Mormonism rather than an accurate picture of Mormonism's social fruits.  In this letter I will confine myself to the divorce statistics.  I enclose copies of the appropriate documentation for your perusal.

Mr. Branch quotes the "Utah Vital Statistics Annual Report" "1980" only eight times.  I find this astonishing.  I would expect someone doing a statistical report on a state to quote the state report as often as possible.  Eleven quotes come from other probably reliable statistical sources -- Church Almanac (1), State of Utah...Report of the Utah Liquor Control Commission (5), Utah's Drinking Driving Problem (3), Patterns of Alcohol Consumption (2).  Fully forty-two of Mr. Branch's citations are from newspapers or magazines -- Salt Lake Tribune (17), Deseret News (9), Utah Holiday (6), Ogden Standard Examiner (3), Utah Evangel (1-an article by Mr. Branch), Orange County Register (1), BYU Today (1), Church News (2), Family Planning Perspectives (2).  These constitute 52.5% of Mr. Branch's sources!  Also, the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Holiday, and Ogden Standard Examiner have long histories of anti-Mormonism in their editorial pages.  Of course, the Utah Evangel can hardly be considered favorable to the LDS Church.  The problem with using newspapers or magazines as sources is that it is difficult to track down the ultimate source of the information to see if the published data are valid or myth.  As often as not, newspapers and magazines quote each other.  These sources also provide an "out" for the compiler if the numbers turn out to be wrong.  I already mentioned to you that Dave Hunt in a letter to Barbara Hainsworth (which I have read) stated that he got his statistical information for The God Makers from The Denver Post, and referred her to the newspaper if she wanted to know where the numbers came from.  His attitude was that if the numbers were wrong and Mormonism unfairly received a black eye, it wasn't his problem since all he did was quote from a published source.  He never did answer the question (asked in a subsequent letter) why didn't he spend some time at his friendly neighborhood public library looking up the data in documents published by the Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  These publications are readily available in public libraries around the country.  Now to specifics.  In the remainder of this letter I will be quoting from a number of publications.  Since the titles are long, I will abbreviate them as follows:

StatAb 85 -- Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1985, published by the Bureau of the Census
StatAb 86 -- Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1986
Vitstats 80 -- Vital Statistics of the United States 1980, vol. 3. Published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
CCDB -- County and City Data Book 1983, published by the Bureau of the Census as a supplement to StatAb
CA 85 -- Deseret News 1985 Church Almanac, published by the Deseret News

As Mr. Branch stated (Branch, p. 8), in 1980 Utah did indeed have a divorce rate slightly higher than the national average. It is not this statement that is offensive to Mormons, but the implication that Mormons have just as much or more divorce as the rest of the nation, when the data quoted by Branch doesn't show this.  You will note (StatAb 85, p. 82) that the national average was 5.2/ 1000 population, while Utah's rate was 5.3/1000.  The rates range from a low of 2.9 (Pennsylvania) to a high of 17.0 (Nevada).  Mr. Branch doesn't tell his readers that every state in the Mountain and Pacific regions (west of Kansas) except Hawaii have higher divorce rates than Utah (Statab 85, p.82).  In the Mountain region, Utah has the lowest rate.  This is interesting.  The western states have high divorce rates, but predominantly Mormon Utah has the lowest rate in the region.  Branch doesn't break out the rate by religion, for states don't report divorce by religion.  But what we are really interested in is not the Utah rate, but the Mormon rate.  Mr. Branch assumes they are the same, but there is good evidence they are different.

First, the state with the highest percentage Mormon population has the lowest rate in the region.  Second, if one plots the divorce rate against the percentage non-Mormon population for all the Utah counties with population over 50,000, one finds that there is a direct relationship, that is, those counties with the highest percentage non-Mormon population have the highest divorce rates.  There are two reasons counties with lower populations must be excluded:  First, those counties with small populations are rural rather that urban counties.  It would be surprising if there were no difference in the divorce rates of urban and rural areas.  Second, counties with small populations generally have small numbers of divorces.  The number of divorces must be large enough so that small changes in the total number of divorces don't affect the rate very much.  For example, in 1980, Dagget County had a population of 769, of which 41.6% was non-Mormon.  There was only one divorce in this county.  One additional divorce would have doubled the rate.  These kinds of fluxuations swamp out the trends that are being looked for.

    The procedure is as follows:

1) Using CCDB, p. 564 (which gives the population of Utah by counties) and CA 85, p. 252-253 (Summary of Church Membership--Utah is broken down by counties), subtract the LDS members from the total population.  This gives the non-Mormon population.
2) Divide the non-Mormon population by the total population and multiply by 100.  This gives the county non-Mormon population in percent.
3) Using VitStats 80, vol. 3, p. 2-41 for the number of divorces per county, and CCDB, p. 564 for the county population, calculate the divorce rate per thousand by multiplying the number of divorces by 1,000 and dividing by the county population.
4) Arrange the results in two columns, first with county population at the left and divorce rate at the right.  This will show if there is a correlation of divorce rate with population.  If there is, then the hypothesis that the Mormon and non-Mormon divorce rates are different cannot be verified without more information and much more work.  If there is no correlation, then arrange the results in two columns with percent non-Mormon population on the left, and divorce rate on the right.  Any direct correlation should be visible, i.e., the numbers in both columns should get bigger as one looks down the column.

Here are the results of this procedure:

COUNTY POPULATION DIVORCE RATE/1000
Cache 57,176 3.8
Weber 144,816 7.1
Davis 146,540 4.5
Utah 218,106 3.7
Salt Lake 619,066 6.3

There is little, if any, correlation of divorce rate with population.

COUNTY % NON-MORMON DIVORCE RATE/1000
Utah 10.5 3.7
Cache 16.5 3.8
Davis 27.4 4.5
Salt Lake 37.6 6.3
Weber 37.9 7.1

This is a striking correlation, and confirms the hypothesis that the Mormon and non-Mormon rates are different.  It also provides evidence that the non-Mormon rate is higher than the Mormon rate.  If the rates are different, we can calculate the average Mormon and non-Mormon rates.

Of the eight Mountain region states, six have Mormon populations of less than 10% (Arizona-5.5%, Colorado-2%, Montana-3.4%, Nevada-7.5%, New Mexico-2.5%, and Wyoming-9.5%).  This is determined by using CA 85, p. 251-253 to find the Mormon population of the states, and Statab 86, p. 12 for the total population of the states.  Nevada should be ignored because of its abnormally high rate (17.0).  Including Nevada would make the Mormons look better.  The remaining five states have 72% of the region's population.  It is therefore reasonable to calculate the combined divorce rate of these states, by treating the small Mormon populations as non-Mormon, and assume that the rate of non-Mormons in Utah will be similar.  Treating the small Mormon populations as non-Mormons works against the Mormons.  The combined divorce rate is calculated by adding the number of divorces from these states.  When this is done, the non-Mormon rate for these states is 6.9.  Since the Mormons make up 70.2% of Utah's population, and since the Utah's divorce rate is 5.3, a simple algebraic equation may be written to calculate the average Utah Mormon divorce rate.  This equation is:

0.702X + 0.298(6.9)=5.3, where X is the Mormon divorce rate

Solving this equation yields X=4.6.  This is considerably below the national average.  Note: I tried three other approaches, including leaving Nevada in the calculations, and applying the calculated non-Mormon rate the entire region.  The results varied from 4.1 to 4.7 for the Mormon rate.  The reason the Utah divorce rate is the lowest in the region is because the Mormons are pulling it down.  The problem is actually more complicated than this.  For instance, no attempt has been made to separate out active LDS from inactive LDS, who may have divorce rates as high as their non-Mormon neighbors.  The church has some data on this.  Those Mormons who have been sealed in the temple have divorce rates about 1/5 of the national average (letter of ex-Church Historian Arrington--copy enclosed).

In his paper, Mr. Branch makes two major errors in interpreting statistics:

1) He equates Mormon and non-Mormon rates, simply referring to the Utah rate.  This helps his readers to do the same, i.e., regard the Utah and Mormon rates as identical.
2) He rarely compares Utah to other states, and never tries to compare Mormons to non-Mormons.  Since the issue is NOT are Mormons perfect (they never claimed to be), but how do Mormons on the whole compare with non-Mormons on the various issues, COMPARISONS ARE MANDATORY.  When this is done, Mormons, with only a few exceptions, are shown to be in a very good position.

Mr. Branch's scholarship is nil.  He shows time and time again that he either does not know how or is unwilling to properly interpret statistical data.  He has tried to create an impression in the minds of his readers that is simply not correct.  In effect, without ever stating a falsehood, he is lying to his readers about the Mormon divorce situation.

Jim, I hope this letter has given you some insight as to why I have a difficult time believing people like Mr. Branch care anything at all for my soul.  He is NOT interested in the truth about the Mormon social situation.  His interest is to make the social fruits of Mormonism look bad, in spite of the fact that that compared to non-Mormons they are quite good.

Sincerely,

Malin L. Jacobs