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Utah atheists are joining forces with former Mormons to march around LDS Temple Square during the faith's General Conference on Sunday.
"We hope [Latter-day Saints] will join us who are wanting to come out or would like to be able to identify as their more authentic and true selves to let the world know that they are atheists; that they don't have to try to maintain the facade of being LDS, when they're not," Dan Ellis, president of Atheists of Utah, said Wednesday. "Hopefully, it will be cathartic for people who are participating."
A former Mormon, Ellis said he stopped attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his early teens.
In responseto the atheists' march,the LDS Church reiterated Wednesday the purpose of the faith's twice-yearly, two-day meetings.
"The real message of General Conference is to follow Jesus Christ," spokesman Cody Craynor wrote in an email, "and we hope that others don't use this religious gathering as a platform for activism."
At the end of the march, scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., American Atheists President David Silverman will address the group. The marchers will then collect letters from Mormons who are resigning their church membership.
"Showing these 'church pew atheists' that it's OK, and indeed wonderful, to be honest about who they are and what they believe," Silverman said in a news release, "is why we are bringing our 2014 national convention to Salt Lake City."
The American Atheists' 40th National Convention will take place Easter weekend, April 17-20, in Utah's capital.