SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement denouncing claims of the Church’s connection to Tim Ballard, calling his activities “morally unacceptable.”
The Church said Tim Ballard, the founder and former CEO of the well-known non-profit Operation Underground Railroad, “betrayed” religious leader President M. Russell Ballard’s friendship (no family relation).
“President [M. Russell] Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests,” read a statement received by ABC4 from Church Media Relations Director Doug Andersen.
According to an article written by VICE News, Tim Ballard’s claims of his close relationship with the Church leader were exposed during a previous Davis County Attorney and FBI investigation into OUR. The investigation has since been closed without any charges made against Tim Ballard or the non-profit.
However, the investigation revealed many alleged incidents of Tim Ballard referencing his relationship with President Ballard, according to the article. Claims include President Ballard reportedly giving a spiritual blessing before an OUR raid, which take place as part of the organization’s mission to save trafficked children, with intel provided by a psychic medium. Additionally, Tim Ballard claimed President Ballard was working with him to use the attention drawn from the rescues to gain Church converts.
Tim Ballard also allegedly claimed to report back to President Ballard monthly. The VICE News article suggested Tim Ballard may have used his friendship with President Ballard to legitimize his religious claims.
“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 activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association,” the statement read.
In the statement, the Church said President Ballard and Tim Ballard formed a friendship years ago over their shared interest in “looking after God’s children,” however, it said President Ballard had not spoken with Tim Ballard in many months.
The Church continued to clarify that it never endorsed or supported OUR or any projects associated with Tim Ballard. It did not expound on Tim Ballard’s allegedly “morally unacceptable” actions.
There has been recent attention on the nonprofit founder as the movie “Sound of Freedom” was released over the summer, detailing a dramatized human trafficking rescue. There is also information suggesting Tim Ballard may attempt to fill Sen. Romney’s seat in the Senate.
Tim Ballard left OUR prior to the release of “Sound of Freedom,” according to VICE News. He is now reportedly starting a new anti-trafficking organization called the SPEAR Fund.
Read the Church’s full statement below:
President Ballard and Tim Ballard (no relation) established a friendship a number of years ago. That friendship was built on a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are and without regard to their circumstance. However, that relationship is in the past. For many months, President Ballard has had no contact with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The nature of that relationship was always in support of vulnerable children being abused, trafficked, and otherwise neglected. 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 activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association. President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.
In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them.
President Ballard loves children, all over the world. It has been his mission and life’s work to look after them, care for them, and point them to their Savior.Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Media Relations Director Doug Andersen, 9/15/23