Billionaire Jeff T. Green Resigns From Mormon Church
Jeff T. Green, the chief executive of a technology firm, said he was leaving because of the church’s wealth and stance on social issues such as gay rights.,
Jeff T. Green, the chief executive of a technology firm, said he was leaving because of the church’s wealth and stance on social issues such as gay rights.
A billionaire from Utah, Jeff T. Green, said he was resigning this week from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an unusually high-profile rebuke of the church’s wealth and position on social issues.
Mr. Green, who runs an advertising technology firm and is believed to be one of the wealthiest people from Utah, did not say what caused him to make such a public exit this week. But he said in a letter to Russell M. Nelson, the church’s president, that he was concerned about the church’s history, finances and advocacy.
“While most members are good people trying to do right, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world,” he wrote in the letter, which was reported Monday by The Salt Lake Tribune.
In the letter, a copy of which was dated Dec. 23, he said he had stopped believing in the church’s teachings more than a decade ago and had spent several years reflecting on his issues with it. “I believe the Mormon Church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights,” he wrote.
The church’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.
In the letter, Mr. Green, 44, asked for his records to be removed from the church and for his only other contact from the organization to be a letter confirming that he was no longer a member. One of his friends and 11 of his family members were also resigning, he said.
Kathleen Flake, a professor of Mormon studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said this sort of formal exit from the church was similar to a renunciation of citizenship. To return to the church, a person would have to be rebaptized.
“Renouncing it is a political act; it’s a way of making a political statement, not just a religious statement,” she said.
She said it was unlikely that the church, which has more than 16 million members, would respond.
“I think they care, but I don’t think they are surprised by such public statements,” Professor Flake, a church member, said. “They’ve simply had too much experience with it to think that they will escape this kind of public engagement with their moral standards.”
Mr. Green, who now lives in Southern California, was also critical of the church’s wealth, which includes an investment fund paid for with contributions by members. The fund had $48 billion worth of stocks as of Sep. 30, according to SEC filings.
“This money comes from people, often poor, who wholeheartedly believe you represent the will of Jesus,” Mr. Green wrote. “They give, expecting the blessings of heaven.”
The management of the fund has come under scrutiny in recent years after a former manager accused the church of misleading members about the use of the funds. Church officials told The Wall Street Journal last year that the money was to be used during possible economic downturns.
Mr. Green, the chief executive of the firm The Trade Desk, is worth $5.2 billion, according to Forbes. In November, he pledged to give away more than 90 percent of his wealth before or at his death.
This week Mr. Green also announced he was donating $600,000 to Equality Utah, a group that advocates L.G.B.T.Q. rights in the state.
He told The Tribune that almost half the money would go to a scholarship fund for students in Utah, including those who “may need or want” to leave Brigham Young University, which is sponsored by the church and has an honor code that prohibits same-sex “romantic behavior.“