4 February 2014
Tom Phillips, former stake president in England and Area Controller for the British Isles and Africa as well as the Financial Director for the Church’s U.K. corporate entities, has allegedly issued a lawsuit against Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Each of the items included in the court summons are questions that could possibly be verified in a court of law to be either true or false (they are matters of secular rather than theological nature). These include the Church’s claims that:
- The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith.
- The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph Smith, is the most correct book on earth, and is an ancient historical record.
- Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.
- Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon.
- The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith.
- There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago.
- All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago.
The court summons mentions tithes, likely because the Church expects all members to pay 10% of their income based on its truth claims. The Church’s truth claims are directly related to the items in question, such as the authenticity of the Book of Mormon (items #2 and #3 listed above). Members who do not tithe are not allowed to hold leadership positions and are denied entrance to the Church’s temples, which is considered absolutely essential for obtaining eternal life and exaltation. Thus, a full 10% tithe is considered mandatory, rather than voluntary, for members who wish to receive the Church’s blessings. Therefore, if the Church’s truth claims do not hold in a court of law, the mandatory tithing requirement could be considered a fraudulent practice based on deceptive claims.
Church president Gordon B. Hinckley testified: “Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction … that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates.” And church president Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.” (Doctrines of Salvation, p. 188)
Joseph Smith declared that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any book on earth.” This can tested in many ways, including examining its origins and contents, examining its historical authenticity (the book is considered fictitious and historically illegitimate by mainstream scholars, historians, and archaeologists), or examining the character of its translator, Joseph Smith. The Book of Abraham can be likewise tested for authenticity (item #1). Joseph Smith clearly taught that the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham were literal translations of the writings of these ancient persons. More recent evidence suggests that the contents of both the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham are largely derived from 19th-century source materials.
The 4th item relates to the Church’s teachings that Hyrum and Joseph Smith died because they would not deny their testimonies of the Book of Mormon (for example, see this link). It is believed by historians that their deaths were actually the result of angering the people because of deceptive polygamous practices, Joseph making himself mayor of the city, destroying a printing press that was publishing true information about him, his revealing the Masonic rituals against a sworn oath of loyalty, and convictions of fraudulence. The court records for Smith’s track record of fraud are available for examination.
The 5th item concerns the Nauvoo Expositor, which made two main claims: 1) Joseph and a select few were practicing plural marriage whilst publicly denying these accusations, and 2) Joseph had himself crowned king over all the earth and “God to this generation” at his secret meetings with the Council of Fifty. These claims have now been verified by historians to be true.
The 6th and 7th items pertain to the Church’s teachings that there was no death before the fall of Adam and Eve approximately 6,000 years ago. The Church teaches: “Two kinds of death are spoken of in the scriptures. One is the death of the body, which is caused by the separation of the body from the spirit. The other is spiritual death, which is to die as pertaining to, or to be separated from, righteousness. … Both of these deaths were introduced into the world by the fall of Adam. … Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall.” These teachings are also emphasized in the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price in 2 Nephi 2:22 and Moses 6:48. Also, the Church’s current Institute manual, used to teach 18-30 year olds, confirms this teaching where it states: “There was no death in the earth before the fall of Adam.”
Whereas the Biblical book of Genesis does not specify any dates, the Church teaches that this Fall took place 6,000 years ago (excerpt from link shown below), and that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. These beliefs come from D&C 77 and teachings of Joseph Smith and many succeeding prophets, seers, and revelators of the Church. In contrast, modern scholars have shown that the first humans emerged around 200,000 years ago in Africa, and that death existed on this planet for millions of years prior to the emergence of our species.
The lawsuit is being made according to England’s 2006 Fraud Act, which consists of:
- “Fraud by false representation” is defined by Section 2 of the Act as a case where a person makes “any representation as to fact or law … express or implied” which they know to be untrue or misleading.
- “Fraud by failing to disclose information” is defined by Section 3 of the Act as a case where a person fails to disclose any information to a third party when they are under a legal duty to disclose such information.
- “Fraud by abuse of position” is defined by Section 4 of the Act as a case where a person occupies a position where they are expected to safeguard the financial interests of another person, and abuses that position; this includes cases where the abuse consisted of an omission rather than an overt act.
The reason that President Monson, in particular, is the person being summoned to the court is explained by the prosecutor. Regarding the fraudulent practice of misleading others to believe false notions, he explains: “The purpose of these untrue and misleading statements is to facilitate the conversion of individuals to become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to pay to said church 10% of their income on a continuing, permanent basis. A second purpose is to mislead those individuals who are already members of the said Church, so that they will continue paying 10% of their income. This tithing income is paid in the United Kingdom to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Great Britain), an unlimited liability company and registered charity with its registered office in England. The President of the two corporation sole shareholders of this U.K. company is Thomas Spencer Monson.”
Christopher Ralph, the plaintiff in the case of summons 2, explained: “The underlying premise for Tom Phillips’ complaint is basically this: Young salespeople are being carefully groomed and trained to go out and spread demonstrable untruths among the British public in order to persuade them to pay over significant sums of money to a corporation. The transactions depend upon acceptance by individuals of certain ‘truth claims’ which must be received on the basis of partial information presented. If members of the public were to be told the whole truth and still decided they would join up and pay up, that of course would be entirely legitimate. However, when the whole truth is deliberately concealed in order to project a false impression, and money exchanges hands, that is fraud … according to the 2006 Fraud Act, which is the relevant piece of legislation in this case.”
The official court summons report can be viewed here.
Details from the prosecution are available at this link.
ABC News article here.
Salt Lake Tribune article here.
Related Article: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints keeps its financial books closed to the public, but a Businessweek article estimates that the Church takes in approximately $8 billion in tithes per year. It is also estimated that “the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.”