- (Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)
Some 75 atheists showed up in Salt Lake City, Utah, this past weekend to march near the city's Temple Square during the bi-annual Mormon General Conference, with some marchers filing their resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the event.
The "Mormon exodus" event was led by Atheists of Utah and the national American Atheists organization on Sunday. Marchers sought to encourage atheists in the LDS Church who may be afraid to "come out."
"The pressure from the Mormon church to stay silent about doubt is fundamentally immoral – it is bad for the members and for society at large, benefiting only the church and its hierarchy. That is why we're organizing this mass resignation," American Atheists President David Silverman said. "We are saying to closeted atheists, 'Utah is home to over a million atheists who live their lives without worrying about shunning or other types of discrimination. If you know you're not a Mormon, be truthful and say so, resign, and come to our convention the weekend of the 17th. Freedom of thought and expression is a great reason to celebrate.'"
After marching around North Temple street, those who were officially resigning from their religion ceremoniously mailed in their resignation forms to the LDS Church. The protesters then gathered in the nearby City Creek Park to hear Silverman speak.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune,one portion of the atheist demonstration took protesters through a line of about 100 Mormons singing the religious hymn "How Great Thou Art." When The Salt Lake Tribune reporter asked one LDS member to comment on the protest, he replied: "I'm just here to sing, man."
Silverman reportedly said that at least 50 former Mormons filed their resignation at Sunday's marching event.
Lyman Kirkland, spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told The Christian Post on April 3 that he hoped the atheist protest wouldn't distract from the true meaning of the weekend's General Conference: a focus on Jesus Christ.
"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.
A 2010 LifeWay study found that three in four American Protestant pastors do not consider Mormons to be Christians. The LDS doctrines on God, Jesus, and salvation are vastly different from that of historic Christianity, they contend.