As allegations of sexual misconduct against Tim Ballard surfaced Monday, the embattled founder of anti-human trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad found himself embroiled in an increasingly heated battle with his faith as a Latter-day Saint.
Last week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accused Ballard of exploiting his friendship with senior apostle M. Russell Ballard to support OUR and Tim’s private business endeavors and condemned his “morally unacceptable” activities.
The Utah-based denomination has never explained the offensive activity, but VICE News reported Monday that Tim Ballard’s departure from OUR followed an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.
The news site stated that Tim Ballard allegedly asked seven women to pose as his wife and share a bed or shower with him in undercover operations to rescue sex trafficking victims.
Tim Ballard and Latter-day Saint leader M. Russell Ballard are not related but were close. The church apostle described him as a “friend of the family” in a 2019 speech in Massachusetts.
In light of the church’s strongly worded rebuke on Friday, these ties appear to have frayed.
“When it became clear that Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship by unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal gain and his activities viewed as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association,” the denomination’s statement said . “President Ballard never authorized his name or the name of the church to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.”
The church, which confirmed its statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, has now removed several articles on its website that mentioned the anti-slavery activist and his work, including this one: “Saving Children: Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad.” .
“Like a grandfather to me”
Over the weekend, Tim Ballard’s response appeared in a YouTube defense in which he denied that he ever took advantage of his friendship with the 94-year-old apostle.
“Everything you hear is not true,” he said. “President Ballard is like a grandfather to me. … Never in my life have I used his name to raise money or make a deal. It never happened.”
Furthermore, the former OUR manager said he does not believe the statement condemning him came from the church.
“Can you imagine if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would publicly condemn one of its members without speaking to him? [their] Bishop or stake [regional] President? Is it possible?”
In a statement released late Monday by The Spear Fund, for which Ballard is a senior adviser, he noted that he was a “member in good standing” and believed in the faith with his “whole heart,” but reiterated the Accuracy of the statement in question Church statement.
“It has been alleged that an LDS Church spokesperson made a statement about me through a tabloid newspaper that is often hostile to people of faith. “My church has not publicly confirmed the authenticity of the statement,” Ballard said. “… In any case, nothing will change in my basic beliefs. If anyone within the church releases this statement, I have every confidence that the right people will step in and ensure due process is followed, as required by our church’s rules.”
Some commentators also questioned the church’s statement and even attacked the Latter-day Saint leader.
“I will support and support you in your calling, but I do not respect you,” wrote one commenter on X (formerly Twitter). “If you hide behind your calling to take down a man fighting human trafficking, you are a suspect.”
Another addressed the senior Ballard and remarked: “You need to publicly apologize for your reckless behavior towards Tim Ballard. Their behavior is “morally unacceptable.” You are a hypocrite! As I have already said, I consider you a prophet, seer and revelator, but as a human being I despise you.”
Others rejected the statement because the church spokesman was not named.
The faith “does not have ‘anonymous’ speakers,” one explained, “so it is ridiculous that the speaker is not named in the VICE article.”
On Saturday, conservative Latter-day Saint radio host Glenn Beck complained online that the church had effectively “excommunicated” Ballard in public statements in hostile media.
These now-deleted comments “are evidence of how conservative Latter-day Saints are renegotiating their religious and political identities,” said Shiloh Logan, a doctoral candidate in Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.
For such people, the church’s “apparent attack on Tim Ballard is seen not only as an attack on his work in Operation Underground Railroad, but also as a rejection of Ballard’s political beliefs and his connection to the former president.” [Donald] Trump,” Logan wrote in an email. “Beck’s comment implies that people are ‘struggling with their problems’ [religious] “Faith” based on the Church’s statement directed at a potential aspiring political figure.”
There has been speculation that Tim Ballard might run for the soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat held by Utah Republican Mitt Romney.
Ballard hinted at that prospect in his statement Monday night, in which he expressed doubts about the church’s explanation.
“We are also extremely suspicious of the timing of such a statement,” he wrote, “given its close proximity to Mitt Romney’s announcement that he is retiring, my own public statements about my prayers for future plans, and the fact that “The LDS Church does not participate in political activities.”
Tim Ballard resigned from OUR on June 22, VICE News reported, after an independent law firm conducted a comprehensive investigation of “all relevant allegations.”
“He has permanently separated from OURS,” the nonprofit told the news organization, without providing details. “OUR is committed to combating sexual abuse and will not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization.”