Claim #9: The Mormon Stories Survey

  • Rollo complains that it would be difficult to get survey responses in any other way. I agree. It is difficult. Science is sometimes hard. But, one doesn’t get a pass simply because it is hard to get the data we want. Mormon Stories simply can’t conclude from their survey the sorts of things they want to conclude. That may be unfortunate, but science is tough. Deal with it.
  • After all, for years doctors used the best data they had–gathered retrospectively–to conclude that hormone replacement therapy prevented heart disease in women. It took at least 5 years, almost 3000 women, and millions of dollars to learn that the retrospective data was misleading. But, if you want answers to some kinds of questions, you have to gather data in the appropriate way. There are, sadly, no short-cuts.
  • Rollo points out that the Church wanted to see the survey. I am sure they did. I wanted to see it too. Whether they have concluded that Dehlin’s claims based upon it are warranted, of course, is an entirely separate issue. I’m sure they have statistical and research experts with enough acumen to point out what should be obvious to any undergraduate. The survey can tell us a great deal—about what ex-Mormons currently think, feel, and believe, or at least what they want us to think they think, feel, and believe. It is not much use, however, for getting at previous attitudes and beliefs. This is one of the most robust, well-supported findings in the last 30 years of psychological research: retrospective memory is treacherous. The Church’s interest in Dehlin’s data cannot change those facts.