(CN) – Is the Book of Mormon the word of God? That is not a question for an American court of law to answer, attorneys for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday in a motion to dismiss a federal conspiracy lawsuit against the church.
In her 75-page class action lawsuit filed Aug. 5, former church member Laura Gaddy accused Mormon Church leaders of driving worshipers to existential crises, suicide, anxiety and depression by peddling a “scheme of lies” centered on the religion’s creation and scriptures.
Founded by Joseph Smith in 1830, the nontrinitarian Christian church boasts 16 million members worldwide.
But the church, commonly shortened to LDS, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse the questions raised in the lawsuit are not ones that can be legally answered by the state.
“Each of Ms. Gaddy’s claims is based on her allegations that the church’s fundamental religious teachings are false. Ms. Gaddy’s claims would require this court to adjudicate questions of profound theological import for the church,” the church said in its motion to dismiss.
“It is not the province of judges or juries to determine whether Moses parted the Red Sea, whether Noah predicted and survived the flood, whether Mohammed ascended to heaven, whether Buddha achieved a state of enlightenment, whether Jesus walked on water, or whether Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ,” the church added.
In addition to being protected by the First Amendment, the church said “any pronouncement by a judge or a jury that God does – or does not – exist would be meaningless.”
According to Mormon history, an angel guided Joseph Smith to gold plates buried near his home in Upstate New York in 1823. Smith collected the plates – which were inscribed in reformed Egyptian by ancient Americans with Hebraic DNA – and translated them into the church’s signature text, the Book of Mormon, which he published in 1830.
Mormons migrated to Ohio in 1831 due to persecution for their beliefs, which included polygamy, and Smith was killed by an angry mob while jailed in Missouri in 1844. Mormon settlers arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley in what is now Utah in 1847.
Gaddy, who left the faith in 2018, claims the “Mormon Corporate Empire” deceived followers and “when the true facts are substituted for the longstanding false orthodox narrative, the story that emerges has shocked devoted Mormons who have made life-altering decisions based upon a scheme of lies.”
The LDS Church did not respond to a request for comment.
Gaddy seeks punitive damages on seven counts, including RICO, fraud, breach of fiduciary duties and emotional distress. She is represented by Salt Lake City attorney Kay Burningham. Wesley Harward with Stoel Rives represents the church.