7022 S. Dexter St.
Littleton, CO 80122
February 17, 1987
P.O. Box 13482
Milwaukee, WI 53213
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
|StatAb 85 --
||Statistical Abstract of the United
States: 1985, published by the Bureau of the Census
|StatAb 86 --
||Statistical Abstract of the United
|Vitstats 80 --
||Vital Statistics of the United States 1980,
vol. 3. Published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
||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.
||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.
||Divide the non-Mormon population by the total population and
multiply by 100. This gives the county non-Mormon population in percent.
||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.
||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
There is little, if any, correlation of divorce rate
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
||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
||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.
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.
Malin L. Jacobs