SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — About 100 people walked to Temple Square to formally sever ties with the Mormon church following a Saturday gathering in downtown Salt Lake City.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports participants visited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Office Building at the Mormon church’s headquarters to deliver resignation letters.
After submitting the letters, they gathered about a block away at City Creek Park, where the excommunicated co-founder of a Mormon women’s group addressed the crowd.
Kate Kelly, who helped found Ordain Women in 2013, told people they should stay in the Mormon faith if it brings them joy, and leave if it does not.
“If you stay, you should raise hell,” she said. “I think you have a moral imperative to make it a better place for children and especially for girls.”
Ordain Women advocates for the inclusion of women being in the church’s all-male lay clergy. Kelly lost her membership in the church last year after being found guilty of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.
The organizer of Saturday’s event, Brooke Swallow, said she wanted to provide a sense of community for people leaving Mormonism.
“We know that it’s a painful process,” Swallow said. “Some people are ostracized or they feel like they need to ostracize themselves from their Mormon families.”
The resignations were not done out of anger or to provoke the church, but to show a sense of dissatisfaction, according to Swallow.
Church spokesman Dale Jones addressed the mass resignation event in a statement.
“Every person is valued and loved. They are our brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends,” Jones said. “Each makes their own decisions about their participation and church membership. Regardless of their choice, we love them and wish them well, and hope they will find the support and answers they seek.”
Former LDS bishop Earl Erskine, host of the online video series “Ex Mormon Files,” also addressed the crowd on Saturday.
Erskine said he began to withdraw from the church after finding inconsistencies in church documents that opened him up to questions about other areas of church history.
“I gave myself permission to think,” he said. “Mormons, bless their hearts, they’re very intelligent, but they don’t critically think very much.”
Mormon leaders are currently “on the defensive” and scrambling to maintain order, said Erskine.
He pointed to a series of articles from church leadership that confronts touchy topics like polygamy and the former ban on black males holding the priesthood. The articles have earned praise for their evenhanded treatment of historical and doctrinal issues, even from the faith’s critics.
Bret Parkin, another speaker at the event, said he thinks the resignations are the beginning of a mass exodus of disaffected Mormons.
“The house of cards,” said Parkin, “is falling down.”