A man considered the wealthiest Utah native resigned his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership and vowed to donate 90 percent of his wealth to charities, beginning with $600K to Equality Utah.
Jeff T. Green, founder and CEO of the advertising technology company The Trade Desk, sent a 900-word letter to LDS Church President Russel M. Nelson resigning his membership immediately, citing the church’s misuse of wealth and its stance on social and equity issues.
The letter, which has been quoted by The Salt Lake Tribune and Forbes, charges that church leadership “is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy.” He wrote that while “most members are good people trying to do the right thing, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world.”
Green described the Mormon Church’s $100 billion in assets as “all a derivative of the widow’s mite” — a reference to a biblical story about a poor widow who gives away her money to the church.
“The Church has been wealthy for many generations and yet doesn’t do nearly as much as it could,” he wrote. “Given you claim to represent the will of God and act as a special witness of Jesus, the Mormon church should be doing more to help the world and its members with its wealth. Instead, I think the church has exploited its members and their need for hope to build temples, build shopping malls, cattle ranches, fund Ensign Peak Advisors investment funds, and own mortgage-backed securities, rather than alleviating human suffering in or out of the church.”
He further wrote that the church “has strained and divided millions of families” through its stances on a range of social issues that have “hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights, and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.”
He announced a donation of $600,000 to LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah, with half of the funds earmarked for scholarships for LGBTQ students in the state including those who “may need or want to leave BYU.”
“We made this investment sizable and publicly to send a message that Equality Utah isn’t going anywhere,” Green says. “It is my hope and that of my foundation [Dataphilanthropy] that this is the first of many contributions to Equality Utah.”
Equality Utah released a statement, saying, “We are tremendously grateful to Jeff Green for believing in our work. We sat down together and shared our vision for a fair and just Utah. We are firm believers that despite our political differences in America, we always must seek common ground. When we do, incredible things can and do happen. Thanks Jeff, for supporting our work. We will continue our active engagement with Utah stakeholders as we work to advance legal and lived equality for LGBTQ Utahns.”
Green said his resignation is a step toward “a life of honesty, morality, truth, and a desire to pursue a more socially just world — not because I desired a different lifestyle.”
Eleven family members and one friend joined Green in resignations.
According to a Washington Post story, Green met with Equality Utah’s Troy Williams before penning the letter to Nelson. In the two-hour meeting, he was skeptical of the “Utah compromise” and that church leaders were honest in their desire to work equitably with the LGBTQ community.
“I had my doubts. Is it really effective to try diplomacy with the church?” Green told the Washington Post, noting that he saw Oaks’s speech the night before as “major progress” from LDS leaders.
“I see progress as a windy, curvy road. It’s never a straight line,” Williams replied. “I always celebrate the wins when we can.”
“I know there’s an attitude that we had this great Utah compromise and somehow we make it work, but we haven’t made it work yet,” Green said. “We can. We’ll get there.”