Utah's wealthiest native son, who pledged last month to give away at least 90 percent of his wealth, has formally broken ties with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, excoriating the organization on its hoarded wealth and civil-rights record on his way out the door.
In an explosive 900-word letter sent Monday to LDS President Russell Nelson, Jeff T. Green lambasted the Mormon church, saying that while he believed most members were “good people trying to do right,” he also believed “the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world.”
“The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy,” Green, a former Mormon missionary and Brigham Young University graduate, added. “I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.”
Accordingly, Green’s next major donation will be $600,000 to Equality Utah. In his letter, Green noted pointedly that “almost half of the fund will go to a new scholarship program to help LGBTQ+ students in Utah,” including any who “may need or want to leave [Brigham Young University].”
Green, the 44-year-old CEO and chairman of advertising tech firm The Trade Desk, is worth an estimated $4.9 billion, according to the Forbes Billionaires List. He currently resides in Southern California, having informally left the Mormon church “more than a decade ago—not believing, attending, or practicing,” according to his letter, which he said marked his official and immediate withdrawal from the church.
“Although I have deep love for many Mormons and gratitude for many things that have come into my life through Mormonism, I have not considered myself a member for many years, and I’d like to make clear to you and others that I am not a member,” he wrote to Nelson.
Taking the church, Utah’s largest nonprofit, to task over its “more than $100 billion in assets,” Green demanded the organization do “more to help the world and its members.” Mormons, “often poor,” give to the Church “expecting the blessings of heaven,” he wrote.
“Instead, I think the church has exploited its members and their need for hope to build temples, build shopping malls, and cattle ranches… rather than alleviating human suffering in or out of the church.”
Green, a divorced dad to three children, is departing Mormonism along with 11 family members and a friend.
His sister, Jennifer Gaerte, told The Salt Lake Tribune, which first reported on Green’s letter, that she had “that picture-perfect Mormon family” until the death of her husband’s brother forced her “into survival mode.” With her grief-stricken partner not attending church, she said, the family was shunned, with other children even throwing rocks at her's.
Gaerte went to a church leader and asked him to release her from the Young Women, an LDS youth organization. He argued that if he released her, she would become an inactive member of the church. “If you won’t release me,” she reportedly replied, “I’ll release myself.”
A cousin of Green’s, Doug Whittemore, said that aspects of Mormonism gnawed at him despite his “wonderful” upbringing. “Something was not clicking for me intuitively,” Whittemore said. “It was pragmatic, but I could never buy into the [religious] concepts, and the teachings were about as far-fetched as you could believe.”
He chose not to serve a mission—a worldwide expedition to proselytize and recruit new members to the church—when he came of age, shocking his family. “A lot of them wouldn’t talk to me for years,” Whittemore, who now lives in Dallas, “and that still persists to this day.”
Green echoed Whittemore’s recollection of an idyllic childhood, and how crucial his faith had been to him growing up. “The most positive part of our childhood wasn’t the strong connection we had with our parents but to the community,” he told the Tribune. “I am deeply grateful to that community and its amazing people, including my ancestors who made great sacrifices in the name of God and the community.”
But Green reiterated in his letter that his mind was made up, adding, “After today, the only contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member.”