SALT LAKE CITY – To Mormons in Salt Lake City and the surrounding county of 1 million people, the southeast corner of Temple Square is designed to be the literal and figurative center of their lives.
Religious life revolves around the Salt Lake Temple, the meeting place of their First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles and the largest temple in the state.
But the corner of Temple Square maintains a practical significance in everyday life: It is designated the center of the city, and all streets are numbered to correspond to their distance from the temple. This makes for some unusual addresses – the city’s street light department is found at 349 S. 200 St. E. – but underscores the importance given to the temple by the city’s founders and dictates its relevance to Salt Lake City’s secular residents.
On Saturday, hundreds of people on the rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints walked from a rallying point to Temple Square, where they delivered a letter expressing their intent to leave the faith. Their religion dictates that such an act will prevent them from entering heaven or seeing their family in the afterlife.
Damien and Shelby Steadman, a married couple, both resigned from the church on Saturday. Damien Steadman is transgender, and he said he wanted to express to the church that its policy was costing it members.
“If we had kids together and they wanted to be LDS, I wouldn’t want them to make that decision, but I would support it,” he said. “Now, they can’t. For them to be castigated and cast aside because of me being trans, that’s not right.”
The impetus was a church policy, revealed by excommunicated podcast host John Dehlin, that says children of same-sex couples cannot be baptized until they turn 18, and Mormons in same-sex relationships are apostates, at risk for excommunication.
“It’s just wrong,” said Sylvia Lesser, who has friends in same-sex relationships and carried a sign saying, “This ‘Policy’ Harms All Of Us!!!”
Such mass resignations have taken place before, the most recent ones beginning in 2012 and continuing each year.
In July, nearly 100 people turned in their resignation letters to the church. The count was far greater Saturday, though organizers did not have a final tally by the afternoon.
The church responded in a statement Friday that fewer than 4 percent of those who have pledged to resign identified themselves as practicing Mormons.
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