LDS apostle accused of sharing church members’ tithing records with Operation Underground Railroad

Lawsuit says prosecutor had “evidence” apostle M. Russell Ballard and/or other church authorities had provided the information. Church points to “confidential” nature of those records.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apostle M. Russell Ballard departs the rostrum at the end of a session of General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. A new court filing says a prosecutor had evidence that Ballard or other church authorities had shared tithing records with Operation Underground Railroad.

A new filing in a lawsuit against Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad contains a jaw-dropping assertion about a senior leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It alleges that Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings told OUR attorneys he had “evidence” that senior apostle M. Russell Ballard and/or other “church authorities” had provided the faith’s tithing records to OUR to help the nonprofit anti-sex-trafficking organization target large donors or wealthy Latter-day Saint congregations.

The Utah-based faith declined to comment on the court filing, pointing instead to its General Handbook, which emphasizes the “confidential” nature of such records.

[The church later said apostle M. Russell Ballard “never released tithing records.”]

“The amount of tithing and other offerings paid by a donor is confidential,” the guidebook for all church leaders states. “Only the bishop and those who are authorized to handle or view these contributions should have access to this information.”

It adds: “Leaders ensure that such data is not used for personal, political, or commercial purposes.”

Rawlings also declined to comment.

The latest court filing includes notes about conversations between Rawlings and OUR attorneys regarding the case. Dated Feb. 14, 2023, those notes refer to a December 2022 meeting between the two parties.

Filed Thursday evening by five women accusing OUR founder Tim Ballard (no relation to the apostle) of sexual misconduct, the amended complaint reiterates a previous allegation that the 95-year-old apostle was, “until recently,” a business associate with the anti-human-trafficking activist — a claim it also traces back to Rawlings speaking in December.

“Rawlings alleged that … Elder M. Russell Ballard’s son-in-law is involved in investing OUR’s money,” the lawsuit exhibit reads, “and Elder Ballard and/or his family is benefiting from the investments.”

The district attorney and the church declined to comment on that as well.

In the past, however, church spokesperson Doug Andersen told The Salt Lake Tribune that the apostle is not a key equity holder or silent partner and has “no relationship” with a Tim Ballard organization called Slave Stealers.

In September, the church issued a scathing rebuke of Tim Ballard, saying that M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Tim Ballard, a fellow Latter-day Saint, had been friends at one point, but that the church leader severed ties with him “many months ago.”

“Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and [for] activity regarded as morally unacceptable,” the church said in a statement, “President Ballard withdrew his association.”

Tim Ballard has denied the accusation, stating “never in my life, ever, have I used his name to raise money, to make some business deal. It never happened.”

He has also denied the accusations of sexual misconduct.

Apostle Ballard recently reported that he is recuperating at home after being treated at a hospital for respiratory issues.