SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking; where can she turn to report financial abuse?
Members of the faith give Fast Offerings, donations made in addition to tithing that the Church says go to families in need within the local congregation or community. But this member says in her case, fast offerings were used to exacerbate a messy divorce.
Lesley Butterfield filed for divorce nearly three years ago but recently learned in court that her husband has received nearly $18,000 in church assistance paid directly to his mortgage and car payments.
Butterfield said she was shocked when she found out, “I immediately emailed the Bishop and the Stake President and said I’m alarmed, I’m concerned.”
Fast Offerings are a standard and regular form of assistance within the Church organization; the principle is explained on the church website: “Fast offerings are used for one purpose only: to bless the lives of those in need. Every dollar given to the bishop as a fast offering goes to assist the poor.”
Butterfield was able to provide documentation showing that while her husband was receiving this aid, he was earning $300,000 per year as a physician.
Butterfield says she was never notified of these payments though she is a co-owner on the accounts. She said, “I wanted to know what implications there were; there must be tax implications for taking these large sums of money.”
She attempted to contact her current Bishop and Stake President–they did not respond. Her local audit committee also gave her no response.
Butterfield then called Church headquarters and made contact within the auditing department.
A Church auditor explained, “There’s no verification of hey, let me see your bank statements, you know, you take a member’s word for it unless there’s high need to question.”
Butterfield was eventually routed to Dan McConkie, a lawyer representing the Church and its ecclesiastical leaders.
McConkie said, “You go directly to the Stake President and then the Stake President will hopefully be very responsive and address that immediately with the Bishop and phone legal.”
She was told that her Stake President would provide her with contact information for the next man up, the Area Authority. She asked for that information but did not receive it.
Butterfield asked, “In that case, in my case when the system breaks down, when the mechanism for members to report these things breaks down, what happens?” McConkie answered, “I think in that case you have a recourse to go to the Area Authority or to get an attorney.”
Area Authority contact information is not readily available to members.
ABC4 contacted the Church for a comment on this story; we have not received a response.
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