UK files summons Mormon
leader on fraud charges
Exploratory criminal proceedings have begun against Mormon prophet Thomas S. Monson in the UK. The case alleges that Monson has made or caused to be made demonstrably false claims to exact funds from believers. Read about the proceedings by clicking here.
The party bringing charges maintains that their case is not against the Mormon religion, but against a representative who has made provably fraudulent claims. It is that admittedly fine line that has allowed the case to progress.
This marks the first time that criminal fraud charges have been brought against a Mormon Church leader since the 1826 conviction of Joseph Smith. (Criminal charges brought against Brigham Young, who succeeded Smith, were for polygamy.) Before claiming prophethood and starting a church, Smith claimed to be able to locate buried treasure by use of a “seer stone.” When he failed to produce the least amount of treasure for his clients, one of them pressed charges. Smith would later claim to use a seer stone to translate The Book of Mormon.
Though we think the case has merit, we think the odds of a conviction are nil. On the merit side, the only difference between a fortune-teller who exacts money for curse removal—for which criminal convictions are routinely obtained in the US—and a church that exacts “donations” for equally unprovable claims is one of scale. It is that matter of scale that brings us to the nil side. Going after individual fortune-tellers is one thing; going after a full-fledged religion is quite another. The charges in the case at hand are arguably applicable to religion in general. Legit or not, we doubt that the UK will want to open such a precedent-setting can of worms.
Which we think is a shame. We would like to see it opened there and in the US. There is no bigger con than religion. In the immortal words of the late George Carlin:
Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story every told ... Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.