- (Photo: MormonNewsroom.org)
A pair of atheist organizations are planning to host a mass resignation of Mormons from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during its general conference.
The national organization American Atheists and its local affiliate Atheists of Utah intend to hold the resignation event during the LDS church's general conference this weekend.
Dave Muscato, public relations director with Americans Atheists, told The Christian Post that while similar events have occurred in the past, this year's event "is the first mass resignation with which American Atheists has been involved at the national level."
"American Atheists President David Silverman is traveling to Utah to deliver a speech and welcome the newly freed atheists to the atheist community and personally invite the participants to our 2014 national convention," said Muscato.
Muscato also told CP that "American Atheists will offer a congratulatory discount to the 2014 national convention to everyone at the event, and a free one-year American Atheists memberships as well."
"The 2012 event was hosted locally with no formal advertising and without the benefit of support from American Atheists at the national level," said Muscato. This year, however, the atheists "will be promoting the exodus with local advertisements and online through social media too."
Scheduled to convene at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church will take place on Saturday and Sunday.
General Conferences in the LDS church are held semi-annually during the first weekends of April and October and brings tens of thousands of Mormons to Salt Lake City from across the world.
This year's conference is expected to bring in more than 100,000 Mormons and millions of viewers via television and online sources.
Dan Ellis, president of Atheists of Utah, told CP that "Atheists of Utah has helped promote two previous mass resignation events, but neither of the previous events coincided with LDS General Conference."
Ellis added that he expects at least 100 people to attend the mass resignation event. He also believes that, as time progresses, the resignation movement will definitely grow.
"I anticipate more than 100 people actually attending the event in person, and have received word from approximately 50 other people who are unable to attend in person, but who will be submitting their resignation on the same day to have at least some small part in this event," said Ellis.
"The Internet Age has provided anyone the ability to research just about everything they could ever care to know about the LDS church and its track record of revisionist tinkering of its own doctrine and purported beliefs."
Lyman Kirkland, spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told CP that he hopes the atheists' activism doesn't distract from the ultimate message of the general conference.
"The real message of general conference is to follow Jesus Christ, and we hope that others don't use this religious gathering as a platform for activism," said Kirkland.
Regarding the trend of membership and resignation, Kirkland told CP that every April the LDS church reports its membership numbers at general conference.
According to church reports, from 2011 to 2012 total membership in the LDS church went from 14,441,346 to 14,782,473. For both years' statistics, baptized converts outnumbered child of record by more than two fold.
"There is a huge underground community of atheists still in the closet who need us, to see that they are not alone and that it's OK to come out and join us," Muscato added.
"We invite those who do not believe to come to our convention and see for themselves that leaving the LDS church doesn't simply make you an ex-Mormon. You don't have to continue to base your identity in Mormonism if you don't believe in it anymore."