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A statue of Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City. Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

A billionaire from Utah announced he's officially resigning this week from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and pledged to donate $600,000 to an LGBTQ advocacy group, the Salt Lake Tribune first reported.

Why it matters: The letter, dated Dec. 23, is a rare public criticism of the church by a high-profile figure. Tech executive Jeff Green wrote: "I believe the Mormon Church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights."

Driving the news: Green, chair and CEO of The Trade Desk, left more than a decade ago and has since moved to California, but he wrote to President Russell Nelson to say that he wanted to make it official and have his records removed, according to the Tribune, which obtained the letter Monday.

What else he's saying: "While most members are good people trying to do right, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world," Green wrote.

  • "The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy," he continued.
  • Green pledged $600,000 to Equality Utah, with "almost half of the fund will go to a new scholarship program to help LGBTQ+ students in Utah," the billionaire said.

Of note: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2019 said it would allow children of LGBTQ+ parents to be baptized and receive blessings from the church, in a reversal of a 2015 decision.

  • The church announced then that same-sex marriages would not be considered apostasy. Instead, any "immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way."
  • Representatives for the church did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper

Hispanics led first U.S. Christmas celebrations

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

While early English colonists in New England declared war on Christmas, Spanish settlers in present-day Florida, Texas and New Mexico celebrated what historians considered to be the first Christmas events in the future United States.

The big picture: Hispanics launched, and kept alive, celebrations honoring the birth of Jesus in the U.S. centuries before the holiday would catch on along the East Coast.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Credit: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.