I’ve seen the news breaking out everywhere: Thomas S. Monson, the head of the LDS Church, has been summoned to court in Britain over fraud allegations.
While the summons have been available for viewing here and here, there’s been little on why the judge would actually sign off on it. Legal experts have scoffed at the idea, along with plenty of Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
Now, however, Tom Phillips (the man behind the private prosecution attempt that resulted in the summons) has opened up on just what it took to bring the case to court and get the summons issued. To sum up: It’s been a long time coming.
Who is Tom Phillips?
Tom Phillips has an impressive and long history with the LDS Church spanning over 33 years. In addition to being personally acquainted with many church leaders, he has served as a bishop, stake president, and area executive secretary. On top of that, he was the area controller for the British Isles and Africa, and the financial director for the church’s UK corporate entities. That last position is especially interesting considering he is presenting a fraud case against the LDS Church, because it means he has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of church finances.
According to Phillips, he has also received the second anointing, a very rare and obscure church ordinance.
The judicial process
The judge who signed off on a summons severely scrutinized the case from all angles for four months (the process usually takes a few days) — attacking the case from every conceivable angle Monson’s legal team would be expected to attack the case on — before being convinced of the case’s merit and approving the summons. The judge did make some modifications though. Phillips originally wanted to list all UK church members and the UK Treasury as victims in the summons, which the judge refused to do — leading Phillips to name just two.
Phillips also states that he is not attacking the church’s core tenets or personally attacking Monson; but he believes the LDS Church misrepresents or glosses over certain facts about the church in order to more easily gain new members, and keep current ones, while collecting tithes from them. The representations the church makes, he claims, are demonstrably false.
If the church were upfront about these facts, he says, there would be no case. Likewise, if there were no way to demonstrably prove the validity or falsity of the teachings in question, there would also be no case.
Phillips has also convinced two leading British law firms to back him in his legal fight. Although, he says, it took several hours to convince the firms he had a strong case, in the end they agreed that “there was a strong case to be made against the Mormon Church for committing crimes of financial fraud.”
One of these firms has also indicated that they can keep the case from being dropped by the court — which, in itself, is actually pretty difficult for a UK court to do.
You can read the full document here.
It sounds like this might be a stronger case than previously thought — with a smaller chance of it being thrown out in court. It appears we haven’t heard the last of this.
However, regardless of how the case ends up, I think it will be bad not only for the church, but for ex-Mormons and non-Mormons.
If the case is dropped: Church history has already been put in the spotlight, and could lead less people to convert — and perhaps even cause some to fall away.
If President Monson ignores the court’s calls to appear: it will look very bad to potential converts and non-Mormons — and even to some current members.
If President Monson goes and loses: It’ll be as bad, if not a lot worse, than if he had ignored the court’s summons.
If President Monson goes and wins: It’ll be vindication for Mormons and may alleviate some of the concern potential converts could have — but many will still probably be wary and dig deeper into church history before thinking about baptism.
But regardless of whether the case is dropped or President Monson goes, wins, or loses, Mormons have already felt the sting of new persecution, fears of religious restriction have been stoked, and ex/non-Mormons — whether they agree with the case or not — will be grouped together and looked at with scorn, leading them to react in kind.
I’ve already seen the rumblings of this happening online, and I imagine it will only intensify if this picks up or drags on.
Another, larger, wedge between people is, to me, the last thing this world needs. So that’s a shame.