‘Mormon Land’: Tim Ballard uproar reveals divisions between LDS Church and its far-right members

Historian Benjamin Park discusses the rough waters Latter-day Saint leaders must navigate when steering the global faith through the stiff winds of the culture wars.

(Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons) Tim Ballard, speaking in Florida in July 2023, has become a hero to a number of conservative Latter-day Saints.

When a spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered a stinging rebuke of Tim Ballard, a fellow member and the charismatic founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-human-trafficking organization, his defenders went ballistic.

They were especially incensed when the statement said M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, disavowed Tim Ballard, who is no relation, and condemned the activist for using the senior apostle’s name in his fundraising.

It couldn’t have come from the church they love, these Tim Ballard devotees reasoned. They had to believe that it was some kind of fake news, or worse, a deep conspiracy.

Latter-day Saint historian Benjamin Park, though, had no trouble believing the church’s condemnation of OUR’s founder. He sees in Tim Ballard’s impressive following a link to many other far-right causes and conspiracy theories — and even possible schism.

(Photo by Mike Hoogterp) Benjamin Park, associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University, is the author of the forthcoming “American Zion: A New History of Mormonism."

Park, whose new book, “American Zion: A New History of Mormonism,” is due out in January, explores the larger issues he has observed within Tim Ballard’s movement and the implications of extreme conservative politics for the church.

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