Utah native Jeff T. Green, considered the richest person to hail from The Hive State, pledged last month to donate at least 90% of his wealth to philanthropic causes during his life or his death.
Green, who now lives in Southern California, is the CEO and Chairman of The Trade Desk, an ad technology company he founded in 2009, with a net worth of $ 5 billion.
But the former missionary of Latter-day Saints and graduate of Brigham Young University will not give any of his money to the state’s largest nonprofit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints .
Indeed, Green resigns from his membership in the Utah-based faith – along with 11 family members and a friend.
“While I have a deep love for many Mormons and gratitude for many things that came into my life through Mormonism, I have not considered myself a member for many years, and I would love you. make it clear to you and others that I am not a member, “wrote Green in a December 20 letter to church president Russell M. Nelson.” Although I left the Mormon church there was is over ten years old – without believing, assisting or practicing – I have not officially requested the deletion of my records, until now. “
While most of the members “are good people trying to do good, I believe the church is actively and currently doing evil in the world. The leadership of the church is not honest about its history, finances and advocacy, ”he wrote. “I believe the Mormon Church has hindered global progress on women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ + rights.”
Because of Green’s views on LGBTQ rights, he chose Equality Utah for his family foundation’s first major donation – $ 600,000.
“We have made this significant investment and publicly to send a message that Equality Utah is not going anywhere,” Green said. “This is my hope and that of my foundation [Dataphilanthropy] this is the first of many contributions to Equality Utah.
He notes that “nearly half of the funds will go to a new scholarship program to help LGBTQ + students in Utah,” including those who “may need or want to leave BYU.”
How the predominantly Utah faith uses its own wealth is an issue of concern to Green.
The church has amassed “over $ 100 billion in assets, all of which are derived from the widow mite, which doesn’t even measure real estate and less liquid assets,” he wrote to Nelson. “This money comes from people, often poor, who believe with all their hearts that you represent the will of Jesus. They give in the meantime the blessings of heaven.
His old faith “should do more to help the world and its members with its wealth,” Green writes. “Instead, I think the church exploited its members and their need for hope to build temples, build malls and cattle ranches, fund Ensign Peak Advisors investment funds, and own securities. mortgage-backed, rather than alleviating human suffering inside or outside the church. “
Green concludes his 900-word missive by saying that it is his “formal resignation … effective immediately … without any waiting period.”
The divorced father of three “isn’t going to change my mind,” he wrote. “After today, the only contact I want from the church is a single confirmation letter to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member.”
This movement is a far cry from how the young Latter-day Saint boy and the other signatories who grew up in the church once envisioned their future.
For each of them, the journey to this moment took on a different path with its own twists, turns and tumults. But all say they have landed in a place of peace and comfort.
Green’s sister Jennifer Gaerte had lots of questions about her faith as a young Latter-day Saint, but ended up going a pretty traditional path – went to BYU, sent her boyfriend on a mission, married him in a Latter-day Saint temple, had four sons and moved to Davis County.
“We were,” she says now, “that perfect Mormon family” – until seven years ago, when the traumatic death of her husband’s brother rocked her spouse, their marriage, and their world.
“My husband was angry with God and refused for months to go to church,” she recalls. “I was totally understanding.”
She continued to take her children to church, but they were ostracized because their father did not attend. Some said that children in the ward even threw stones at them.
“I went into survival mode,” she says, “trying to save my marriage and my family”.
At the time, Gaerte was in the Young Women presidency. She went to the bishop and told him, “I need to be released,” but he replied, “If I release you, you will become inactive. To that, she replied, “If you don’t release me, I will release myself. “
And that was it.
The family moved from Woods Cross to Farmington, attended for a little while, but eventually stopped going.
Since then, Gaerte, who is a social worker and teacher, has had to find out “who I am outside of the church because it was so ingrained in me,” she says. “Do I believe this because it’s me or because it’s what I was taught?” “
Green, Gaerte and two of the five siblings have left the church, she said. “Our parents raised us as strong individuals who can think for themselves and that’s what we did.”
She hopes they see it that way.
“I did not feel edified”
Justin Green, Jeff’s younger brother, served a mission in Guatemala, got married in a temple, and was fully engaged for most of his life.
About 10 years ago, he began to realize that he was going to church and not enjoying it, that he did not feel nourished spiritually.
“I didn’t feel uplifted. I didn’t feel connected to people or to the sense of community. The doctrinal discussions have never been deep, ”says Justin, a bank executive who now lives in Houston. “It was causing friction in my life. It wasn’t working for me.
He did not delve into the history or social issues surrounding Mormonism, but rather walked away.
“I realized that I could be a better father for my [four] kids, a better person, ”he says. “I could spend time on other things.”
Over the past several years, as Justin has found his own “moral compass,” he has examined more of the church and its teachings and found that he could not answer any of the temple’s recommendatory questions. prescribed manner to be deemed worthy to do so. Enter.
[What are the recommended questions Latter-day Saints must answer to their lay leaders to gain entry into the faith’s temples? Read here.]
Justin has decided to join the others in resigning, he says, because when strangers find out he’s from Utah, they assume he’s a Latter-day Saint.
“I don’t want to be associated with this,” he said. “I don’t think it’s as open and enveloping as it should be.” But, he adds with a laugh, he still loves BYU football.
‘Do not click’
Doug Whittemore is Jeff’s closest cousin and lived across the street in western Jordan. The two were inseparable for years and by all accounts had a “wonderful childhood” in their Latter-day Saint community.
Yet there were aspects of the faith that troubled him.
“Something didn’t click intuitively for me,” recalls Whittemore, who works in financial services in Dallas. “It was pragmatic, but I was never able to join the [religious] concepts, and the teachings were about as far-fetched as one might think.
So, around the age of 18 or 19, he decided not to serve – the first man in his extended family not to serve.
From then on, he made his own way.
After that, everyone in the family, including Jeff, treated him, well, “differently,” he says. “A lot of them wouldn’t talk to me for years, and it still persists to this day.”
You would think they would have the opposite reaction, he said, “fighting to get me back.”
It took a long time to rekindle a relationship with his parents, but he was finally able to have a loving conversation – on the peach – with his father, shortly before the father died of pancreatic cancer in 2018.
“I respect all Mormons and treat them the way I would like to be treated,” says Whittemore. “The heart of all religions is to be kind to human beings.”
“A clear objective”
With his pioneering pedigree (he had Ensigns, Angells, and Woolleys in his family tree) and a Mormon penchant for obsession, Jeff Green once saw himself working full-time to instill faith in adolescents as a teacher of seminar.
While on assignment in Venture, California (not far from where his office is now), the serious young proselyte even attempted to convert a Catholic priest. The man in the canvas was kind enough to offer a listening ear but had no intention of changing his religion, a fact that escaped the idealistic missionary who was convinced he was on God’s side.
Because of such zeal and certainty, Green loved his mission. It changed her life.
“I had a clear idea of the goal that what you do resonate in eons,” he says. “I felt like I was creating rich eternal life for others.”
The thoughtful scholar eventually left religious education to earn a degree in English literature, then studied marketing communications at the University of Southern California.
As Green built his career as an online advertising entrepreneur, he also began to scrutinize Mormon history, starting with his ancestors and polygamy. Then he moved on to the “First Vision” reported by Church founder Joseph Smith and other aspects of the official record of the past, finding contradictions along the way.
This led him to a more in-depth exploration of the teachings of the Church and what he saw as troubling aspects of the structure and sociology of the faith. Such research ultimately emptied his beliefs of the church’s truth claims.
“The most positive part of our childhood was not the close bond we had with our parents, but with the community,” says the soft voice of 44-year-old. “I am deeply grateful to this community and its amazing people, including my ancestors who made great sacrifices in the name of God and of the community.”
Still, he feels just as compelled to take a formal break.
“Believing Mormons (following the lead of church leaders) often accuse those who leave of doing so for simple or petty or even demonic reasons – that’s not my story,” Green told Nelson in the story. letter. “I stopped believing and attending on principle.”
He is leaving now, he writes, “for the same reasons.”