LDS Church’s Policy Changes Prompt Mass Resignations In Downtown Salt Lake City


SALT LAKE CITY – November 14, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) ─ Within sight of the Salt Lake Temple, more than 2,000 alienated members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their supporters gathered Saturday for the LDS Church Mass Resignation Rally.

“Someone was trying to count, but lost track,” said Lauren Elise McNamara, one of the event’s coordinators. “I am shocked by the number of people who came out, and pleased at the amount of love and support from members and non-members here today.”

The event was sparked by policies detailed in an LDS handbook intended for use by church bishops and other officials. The policies, revealed last week, labeled same-sex marriages and relationships as acts of apostasy, and declared that the children in a home with two gay parents would not be allowed to participate in church rites, including baptism, until they reached the age of 18 and renounced their parents’ homosexual relationship.

“I’m planning on resigning today,” said Eliasha McKenzie, 13, of Salt Lake City. “It’s not cool that they’re not letting children of gay parents be members. My mom and her girlfriend are gay. Their choice is getting excommunicating or resigning. I’m also here to support my friends who are LGBT. This world deserves peace, not hate.”

Even before the 1 p.m. event at City Creek Park began, long lines had formed at tables where volunteers were available to answer questions or help with paperwork. Attorney Mark Naugle was at the head of another line, offering his services for free to people who wanted to resign from the church efficiently and without revealing their home address on the form. Naugle offered the address of his law office instead.

Utah attorney Mark Naugle offering his services pro bono for people who wanted to resign from the LDS Church without revealing their home address. Naugle offered the address of his law office instead. Photo: Gephardt Daily
Utah attorney, Mark Naugle, offered his services pro bono for people who wanted to resign from the LDS Church without revealing their home address. Naugle offered the address of his law office instead. 
Photo: Gephardt Daily

Naugle, contacted a few hours after the event, estimated he had received 1,500 resignations from attendees who wanted his help.

“I’ve wanted to resign for a while,” said Sariah Westfall, 36, of Salt Lake City. “I have not been active in 18 years, and I don’t believe anymore. I don’t like that they exclude the children of gay parents. It will rip families apart. It’s supposed to be a family-oriented church, but it’s ripping families apart.”

Dori Walker traveled from Winnipeg, Canada, to participate.

“I was excommunicated, but I have family that is still Mormon, and the church’s policies hurt these families who want to be Christ-like and love everyone,” said Walker, who was delivering resignations for five family members active in the faith. “The church institutionalizes homophobia.”

Dori Photo: Gephardt Daily
Dori Walker, of Winnipeg, Canada, brought the names of five relatives who wished to formally resign from the LDS Church. Photo: Gephardt Daily

Zilpha Larsen, 38 and from Millcreek, said she was coming to support people who had decided to resign. Larsen resigned from the LDS Church in 2012, at the first mass resignation, which she organized.

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“I realized the church had not always been truthful when I was growing up,” she said. “My best friend in high school was gay. I didn’t find out until after his mission. He was a good person. The church says homosexuals are bad. It doesn’t accept homosexuals, and there’s no good reason for it. To me, if the Mormons’ God doesn’t accept homosexuals, that God is a false God, and anything they say is a revelation that is from a false God doesn’t matter to me.”

Jessica Wunschel, 62 and visiting from Washington state, said she empathized with the group, but wasn’t at the event to resign.

“I want to be excommunicated,” said Wunschel, who had decorated herself with a feather boa and forehead “gems” in rainbow colors. “Resigning is going away quietly. To me, the seat of their power is excommunication. To them, it’s a weapon. I want to make a mockery of it.”

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg
Jessica Wunschel, 62 , from Washington state, said she empathized with the group, but wasn’t at the event to resign. She said she’d prefer to be excommunicated. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg

Wunschel said she was in an abusive marriage, and one night her husband nearly strangled her, refusing to let her breathe until she promised to read scriptures demanding wifely obedience.

Event speakers began after a moment of silence to honor victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Then speaker Brooke Swallow talked about the need for dialogue and compassion. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., she said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Speaker Heather Palmer talked about the policy that would prevent her son and her stepdaughter from being baptized.

“This will have a huge impact on my family,” Palmer said.

And before the group adjourned briefly, so the hundreds whose paperwork was complete could walk to a nearby mailbox and deposit their letters, speaker Don Braegger shared a story that dated back 25 years.

“I was on the stake high council, and was made aware of a returned missionary who was gay and not sure how he could fit into the church,” Braegger said. “I wanted to write an anonymous letter telling him I shared the same feelings, but I hesitated to mail it.

“Within a month, I learned he had hung himself in his parents’ home with a belt. The church he had given two years of his life to had no place for him.

“Back then, I was the married father of three,” Braegger said. “Now I am the father of seven, and I came out nine months ago…Never underestimate the power of people to save the world. It’s the only way that it changes.”

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg
Photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg

6 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent coverage of an important and impactful event in SLC. Unbelievable that KSL did not even cover the story at all! Every other local news station was there and many national news entities covered this, but no KSL! Outrageous to me!

  2. I have been following this story since the beginning and I find it very interesting how some people are being what I consider “stupid”. These people who rally for the church to change the policies or they are not being fair to children of gay parents is, well, completely absurd to me. Those who live a gay life style or who marry their partner — are they really going to be “open” to having their children join a church where they are taught one thing and then go home to another?

    The story of this woman who would rather be ex-communicated than resign from the church is looking for attention — that is it. She will get her 15 minutes of fame and then what? She will have made a mockery of herself as well. Her husband was obviously not a good man nor a kind priesthood holder. Holding rallies are fine; however, does anyone really think the church is going to amend a revelation for their God? No, I really do not think so.

    The apostles of the church are good men, the revelation in the handbook is from God — or supposed to be. These people who are rallying against the church must have forgotten that. I became Christian at the age of 28 — I still received priesthood blessings as a Muslim of spiritual guidance. I knew the church was the restored gospel in 2011, after years of questions. Maybe I’m out of line for saying this; but I think people need to really stop and look at the bigger picture.

    And maybe I’ll never be baptized nor see my children get married in the temple — but I will say one thing: The revelation of the church is real and is there to protect others from harm.

  3. A lot of things I don’t know about the church, but one thing I do know. The church is TRUE. I spent 6 years as a family search missionary at the Family History Center. I saw miracles every day It was the happiest 6 years of my life.

  4. What’s really sad (to me) is the people protesting/resigning aren’t listening to the entire reasoning behind the clarification. Heavenly Father doesn’t want contention or conflict within the family. This policy is to help strengthen the family unit. The church has never said people with this lifestyle are bad people, their actions are not congruent to the teachings of the chruch. Heavenly Father loves ALL his children. He must be disappointed in those that are choosing to hear what they want to hear and not what his prophet and apostles are ACTUALLY saying.

  5. If the mormon church continues to spew hateful messages ‘from god’. It will be a distant memory of a bad nightmare on human history, very soon. There will always be crazies like Jen and Tessie Roberts and such, but at least there wont be an entire state backing up insanity.
    In my name, Amen.

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