About 150 Mormons participated in a mass resignation ceremony and signed a "Declaration of Independence from Mormonism" in Utah, the state where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based, on Saturday.
The group of Mormons, from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and a few other states, flashed signs saying, "Finally ExMormon," "Research the church" and "Transcend Mormonism," as they hiked Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City.
"This feels awesome," Reuters quoted Alison Lucas, from West Jordan, Utah, as saying. "I don't know if I would have had the courage except in a group."
The reasons behind the Mormons' exit included doctrines, inconsistencies in how the LDS narrates its own history, and its rejection of gay marriage. They hiked a peak where former church president Brigham Young once surveyed the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city in 1847.
"It's been a hard journey and this is a symbolic end," event organizer Zilpha Larsen was quoted as saying. "I just hope that it boosts people up and helps them feel more comfortable in their decision."
Michelle Hobbs, a 40-year-old Salt Lake City resident, told The Salt Lake Tribune she had been "very faithful" all her life but after she researched on the church, she began to doubt the timeline of events in the Book of Mormon. "It's just all man-made. It's very disappointing," she said.
Some feared their decision could cost them social or business connections they got through the LDS. "It's hard, so we have to be very careful," participant Robin Hansen was quoted as saying. He said he was leaving over a "culture of abuse" Mormons promote by stressing on obedience.
Michael Purdy, an LDS spokesman, responded to the mass resignation, saying, "People make their own decisions about the direction they will follow in life." There are very few who take this action, he told Reuters, but "it is sad to see someone choose to leave. We wish them well."
Mormons deviate from Christianity's central tenets – the Trinity, the belief in one God in three Persons. They also believe Joseph Smith Jr. is the first latter-day prophet who restored the original Christian church in the 19th century in America. They believe the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false. Additionally, Latter-day Saints are often criticized for their belief in "divine" books of scripture, aside from the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.