SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 13, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Tryston Kartchner decided Saturday was the day.
The 20-year-old West Valley man had stopped going to church two years earlier, but he had never taken action to have his name removed from the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I heard about the LDS Church Mass Resignation and decided to get it done,” Kartchner said. “My dad is super LDS, but I never really believed the teachings of the church. My mom is a lesbian, and she got kicked out.
“When I heard about the children of gay parents having to turn 18 and renounce their parents, I started doing research, and a lot of things started to surface. And I decided I didn’t want my name attached to that.”
Kartchner was one of an estimated 125 who filled out or at least picked up paperwork to resign from the church at the Saturday afternoon event.
A similar event in November, right after news broke of the policy about denying religious rites to minors living in gay households, drew about 2,000 to City Creek Park, and an estimated 1,500 turned in paperwork that day.
Those who stayed to hear speakers at this Saturday’s event numbered a few more than 100. Speaker and organizer Brooke Swallow-Fenton welcomed the modest crowd, reminding listeners that they were present to offer support those who wished to leave the LDS church, not to bash the institution.
Kate Kelly, a Mormon feminist and the founder of the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated by the LDS church in 2014. Speaking to the crowd, she seemed almost wistful that she never got a chance to resign her church membership.
Kelly said she worries about women and girls who are still members in a church that will grant priesthood privileges to males but not to females.
“There are no women who can speak with authority,” she said. “What does that say?”
Besides women, the LDS church has discriminated against people of color and the LGBTQ community, Kelly said. Discrimination is fundamental to the faith, she said.
Kelly recalled her LDS mission to Spain, and the comfort she took in her belief that every question had an answer.
“Have an eating disorder? Read the ‘Book of Mormon,'” she said, laughing. “Getting a divorce? Read the ‘Book of Mormon.’ It was ridiculously haughty and dismissive.”
Kelly said her life now has a different peace and an authentic joy.
“We are here to honor your choice, your decision to take part,” she told the listeners. “We are here to honor your future.”
Speaker Ashley Wilkinson joked about her family’s reaction after she attended November’s Mass LDS Resignation and was photographed by multiple media outlets because she was standing by the mailbox where people mailed their resignation papers.
“My brother-in-law said I was no longer welcome in his home,” she said. “He said I started a religious war in the family.”
“I also started ISIS,” she joked, drawing widespread laughter from the crowd.
Wilkinson said after the husband she met at BYU came out as gay, she approached her bishop for a movement to champion love and acceptance, not just tolerance, of those who are different. He encouraged her to write up her thoughts, but the more thought and research she put into the project, the less interested she was in returning to church.
Her 13-year-old son recently commented that the further they got from their time in the church, the happier a family they became, Wilkinson said. She agrees.
Another speaker talked about the 12 stages of recovery after leaving the Mormon church, the last two being forgiveness and activism. One woman talked about Utah’s high level of anti-depression medications, and said she was medication-free just six months after leaving the church.
Speaker Katrina Whitney talked about losing her temple recommend as soon as she mentioned to her bishop that she was considering divorce. She came to label his action as spiritual abuse, she said, which she described as the denial of spiritual help and resources to a person in dire need.
“I think the church is causing a huge amount of harm to society,” Whitney said. “From here on out, I choose love … Without love, what good is religion?”
Swallow-Fenton, a key organizer of the November event, confessed she considered not speaking at this Mass Resignation because she is running for a seat in the Utah House of Representatives and wasn’t sure voters would appreciate her involvement.
“Then I talked to my husband, and he said, ‘What would Bernie Sanders do?'” she said, laughing. “I’m a Bernie nerd. And I think it would be horrible if politicians can’t talk about social problems because of churches.”
Swallow-Fenton encouraged everyone present to stand up for what they believe.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I encourage you all to make some noise, in a positive way.”