Jeff T. Green, Utah’s richest native, has announced he is leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In a blistering letter to LDS President Russell Nelson, Green accused the Mormon church of “actively and currently doing harm in the world.”
Fantastically wealthy, the church has funded some of the most vicious anti-LGBTQ initiatives, including California’s ballot initiative to overturn marriage equality, and has a racist history of banning people of color.
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While the church has mellowed on LGBTQ issues and apologized for the blatant racism from church leadership under the guise of “religious freedom,” they hardly embody the Christian principles of promoting civil rights and kindness to all.
Green acknowledged that most Mormons are “good people trying to do right,” and blamed the church’s leadership for leading them astray.
“The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy,” he said in the 900-word letter. “I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.”
Green announced he would be donating $600,000 to Equality Utah, an LGBTQ organization.
“Almost half of the fund will go to a new scholarship program to help LGBTQ+ students in Utah,” he said, including any who “may need or want to leave [Brigham Young University].”
Numerous students organized an unofficial BYU Pride march earlier this year despite the school’s ban on same-sex romantic behavior. The leaders stayed anonymous so their education wasn’t jeopardized by hostile school authorities.
“At BYU, we still live with residual institutionalized homophobia that successfully turns us against each other,” a post on the BYU Pride Instagram post declared. “It is now our turn to unite as one family in making BYU a welcoming place for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious standing.”
On February 19, 2020, the school revised its student honor code to remove a clause prohibiting “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” However, two weeks later, the director of the Honor Code Office, Kevin Utt, clarified that the code still prohibited “any same-sex romantic behavior.”
In March, students lit up BYU’s sign in rainbow colors to show support for LGBTQ equality. The school quickly denounced the display and said it violated their policies.
From 1959 to the mid-’90s, the school ran “aversion therapy” programs meant to “cure” homosexuality. The programs administered vomit-inducing drugs or electrical shocks to people’s arms or genitals while showing them same-sex pornographic images.
In 1962, the school officially banned gay students over worries that they would “contaminate” other students. In the mid- and late ’70s, the school’s security chief planted listening devices, fake gay ads in local paper and surveilled local gay bars to try and detect gay students.
From 1976 to 1985, the school had a “Values Insitute” specifically meant to further anti-gay scholarship. Then, in the late ’90s, the school prohibited “homosexual conduct” in its Honor Code, even going so far as to forbid “regular association with gay men.” In 2000, the school kicked out 13 students caught watching the groundbreaking gay TV series, Queer As Folk.
In 2011, the Honor Code also prohibited homosexual advocacy, defined as “seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.” The prohibition sounds very much like Russia’s law forbidding all “homosexual propaganda.”
Though the school’s policies don’t explicitly mention transgender students, by 2017, faculty members had been advised that any women with shaved heads or men wearing makeup should be reported for violating the Honor Code.
Gay BYU students have killed themselves throughout the school’s history.
Green was adamant in his request to be taken off the church’s list of members and forceful in his condemnation of the church’s spending spree on real estate and earthly delights. Instead, he said, Mormon leaders should use their “more than $100 billion in assets” to do “more to help the world and its members.”
“After today,” he concluded, “the only contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member.”