The richest man in Utah just submitted his resignation to the Mormon Church, claiming it is “actively and currently doing harm in the world.”
The man in question is Jeff T. Green, a tech mogul worth about $5 billion (though that number can fluctuate depending on the day). Just last month, he joined The Giving Pledge, promising to give away at least 90% of his wealth before he dies. That’s all well and good — keeping up to 10% of a few billion dollars is still an inconceivable amount of cash — but it’s the other revelation that’s even more eye-popping.
Green isn’t just making some symbolic move here. He’s formally leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along with nearly a dozen family members. He hadn’t donated to the Church in over a decade, so it’s not like the Church is losing money it was counting on, but his name and status are walking away and that may be the bigger blow for Mormonism.
The Salt Lake Tribune has the text of his resignation letter:
“Although I have deep love for many Mormons and gratitude for many things that have come into my life through Mormonism, I have not considered myself a member for many years, and I’d like to make clear to you and others that I am not a member,” Green writes in a Dec. 20 letter to church President Russell M. Nelson. “While I left the Mormon church more than a decade ago — not believing, attending, or practicing — I have not officially requested the removal of my records, until now.”
While most members “are good people trying to do right, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world. The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy,” he writes. “I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.”
His former faith “should be doing more to help the world and its members with its wealth,” Green writes. “Instead, I think the church has exploited its members and their need for hope to build temples, build shopping malls, and cattle ranches, fund Ensign Peak Advisors investment funds, and own mortgage-backed securities, rather than alleviating human suffering in or out of the church.”
I’m not usually someone who praises billionaires for doing the bare minimum, but Green didn’t have to write this letter at all. He could’ve just avoided controversy entirely, in large part because he spiritually and emotionally walked away from the Church a long time ago. I have to imagine there were people close to him trying to talk him out of making a bigger deal out of this. But Green sent this letter and it’s in the news — which means the Mormon Church just lost one of its most prominent and wealthy members in a very public way. It may even be the Church’s fault, in a way, since they still consider you a member unless you go through the formal steps to resign.
What Green Understands About the LDS Church
Green is absolutely right on his criticism, too. The Mormon Church is hurting people. They have been for a long time. Just to go through some recent lowlights, they were one of the driving forces against marriage equality. They still promote gay conversion torture. They’ve covered up sex abuse, even using a secretive hotline to suppress the details. And a whistleblower who used to work for the LDS Church’s investment division even claimed the Church is hoarding nearly $100 billion in donations that had been earmarked for charity.
All that’s on top of the Church’s false beliefs, their long history of racism, and their continued support of right-wing cruelty in general.
Green isn’t just sending the letter as a mic drop, though. He’s putting some money behind his words. His family’s foundation just made a $600,000 donation to Equality Utah as its first large gift, and he says about half those funds will “will go to a new scholarship program to help LGBTQ+ students in Utah, [including those who] may need or want to leave BYU.” That’s an incredible and much-needed move that will inevitably help students who want to leave the Mormon-affiliated school but don’t have the resources to do it. (Let’s hope it’s the first of many, many similar gifts. He can no doubt afford it.)
If Green wanted to make a different kind of positive impact, he could also help fund more progressive candidates for local races in order to help Utah’s state legislature turn blue. Those races are a lot cheaper to fund than the national ones usually targeted by wealthy donors.
Green says the only contact he now wants from the Church is a confirmation regarding his resignation. Here’s hoping he takes a celebratory gulp of hot coffee once he receives it. And while we’re at it, let’s hope a bunch of other people join him out the door.
Leaving our religion with a public explanation of why it doesn’t deserve our support is one of the few triumphant moments we can all share with a billionaire.
(Featured screenshot via YouTube)