Donovan Feist, once a devout Mormon, had been planning to leave the LDS Church for months and considered drifting into inactivity.
But the 21-year-old Salt Lake City resident decided to resign and tell members of his ward, or congregation, on Sunday what led to his decision.
“I did get up on the stand and just give a 10-minute explanation of my experience in the Mormon church and why I’m leaving,” Feist said.
A short time later, he stood in front of a crowd of about 60 people at City Creek Park in downtown Salt Lake City and again talked about the step he had just taken. Coincidentally, Feist resigned on the same day a mass resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was being held.
“I didn’t even know this was happening until five minutes ago,” Feist said shortly before the event began. “It was just serendipity.”
Feist, who was wearing the suit he bought for a Mormon mission in Thailand, said he had serious questions about church beliefs “that I couldn’t pray away.”
Earlier this year, he became convinced that the evidence does not support that certain events in the Book of Mormon, the faith’s foundational scripture, actually occurred. That belief led him to atheism, he said.
The resignation event has been held eight times since 2011 (there was more than one some years), according to organizers. Sunday’s gathering was scheduled on the second anniversary of the LDS Church changing its policy regarding children with LGBTQ parents.
Under that policy, Mormons who enter into same-sex unions are considered apostates and their children are barred from blessing and baptism rituals without the permission of the faith’s highest leaders. To receive permission, a child must be 18 years old, is committed to living church doctrine, “specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage,” and “does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”
Kristine Bingham Ellis, of Boise, and her son resigned two years ago because of the policy. Ellis said her ex-husband is gay and her son did not want to disavow his father to go on a church mission.
Mike Norton — who is known as NewNameNoah and has posted online recordings of LDS temple ceremonies taken with hidden cameras — also objects to the policy. He said the church recently “doubled down” on the issue with a court brief supporting a Colorado bakery shop owner who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
The event also included access to paperwork that would enable Mormons to end their church membership and have their names removed from the faith’s rolls. Salt Lake City attorney Mark Naugle, who operates www.quitmormon.com, will help expedite the resignation process for the attendees who filled out the forms.