A Utah attorney is planning to help thousands of Mormons formally leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after LDS leaders announced a new policy barring children of LGBT people from baptism until they are 18.
Attorney Mark Naugle told Salt Lake City TV station KIVI that he has already heard from an estimated 1,400 people who would like his help filing formal letters of resignation, which are required to officially cut ties with the Mormon Church and remove one's name from the church rolls that list all members worldwide.
Naugle will also attend a demonstration Saturday afternoon that organizers are billing as a "Mass Resignation from Mormonism Event."
At press time, 995 people indicated that they planned to attend the event held at City Creek Park in Salt Lake City, according to the event's Facebook page. Noting that the event is "for anyone ready to resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and those who wish to support them," demonstrators plan to gather at the park to finalize and sign paperwork, then march en masse to Salt Lake's Temple Square to deposit the letters in a mailbox near the Church's international headquarters.
Organizers promised that an attorney "affiliated with the event" will be on hand to "offer advice and to make sure our resignations are processed immediately and without ward leader intervention," and two notary publics will be present to notarize the letters of resignation.
The new policy, which appeared in an online update to the Mormon Church's layperson leadership manual on Friday, declares that "a natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabitating, may not receive a name and a blessing." The update also, for the first time, lists marrying a person of the same sex as "apostasy" — the rejection of church teachings that requires excommunication.
Since the change was revealed, Mormon leaders have responded to growing backlash by portraying the new policy as one that "originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years." The policy was also reportedly intended as a "clarification" that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry nationwide, but "that is not a right that exists in the Church."
But many LGBT Mormons aren't buying that logic, pointing that it seems to fly in the face of recent moves viewed as conciliatory towards LGBT members, including the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance recently passed in Utah with the outspoken support of the Church.
Just yesterday, Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who was raised Mormon, announced that she was formally quitting the church, citing the "cruel" new policy that she contends punishes children of LGBT parents.
“It is impossible for me to be a part of a religion that would attack its own members and punish them by denying their children involvement in the church,” wrote Kendell.
In an op-ed for The Advocate, non-practicing Mormon author and gay, married father Brian Andersen agreed, reflecting on the touching moment when he witnessed his daughter blessed by her grandfather and celebrated by her relatives, many of whom are still active LDS members.
"It saddens me to know that the innocent children of other LGBT parents — other apostates — will no longer be allowed to bring this pure joy to Mormon families," writes Andersen. "This new policy is counterintuitive to the fundamental valuing of family that is central to the Mormon faith in which I was raised."
Watch KIVI's report on the mass resignations below.