SALT LAKE CITY (CN) — A federal lawsuit sure to get attention in Utah claims that the “Mormon Corporate Empire” has driven worshipers to existential crises, suicide, anxiety and depression by peddling a “scheme of lies” centered on the religion’s creation and its scriptures, a onetime member claims.
Laura Gaddy on Monday filed a scathing, 75-page class action against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Represented by Salt Lake City attorney Kay Burningham, Gaddy claims the church, which claimed 16 million members worldwide in 2018, twisted “the foundational history of Mormonism” in a “fraudulent scheme perpetrated for generations.”
“The material facts upon which Mormonism is based have been manipulated through intentional concealment, misrepresentation, distortion and or obfuscation by the [LDS] to contrive an inducement to faith in Mormonism’s core beliefs,” the complaint states.
The defendant is The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Gaddy describes as a holding company, “which owns and/or controls several for-profit businesses.”
The complaint cites official, “whitewashed” teachings of Mormonism claiming to be the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in which a divine authority essential to that gospel was taken from Earth after Christ’s crucifixion and purportedly restored hundreds of years later to church founder Joseph Smith.
According to Mormon history, an angel guided Smith to buried gold plates near his home in Upstate New York in 1823. Smith allegedly 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 1847.
Gaddy claims that LDS leaders have recently and partially admitted, “albeit in an intentionally limited and ever changing manner,” that Smith did not directly use gold plates to create the Book of Mormon, contradicting orthodox narrative.
“Those individuals close to Smith during the period of Book of Mormon creation concede that Smith dictated the Book of Mormon while having his head in a hat which contained a seer stone, the same type stone he had previously used to look for buried treasure,” the complaint states.
Smith spent part of his early career in New York as a hidden treasure hunter, and was arrested and tried as a “disorderly person” in 1926, Fraser’s Magazine reported in 1873.
Gaddy claims that historically accurate accounts successfully challenge bogus LDS Church narratives of Smith’s first vision of “two personages whom he believed to be God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ” in 1820, his translation of Egyptian papyri into the Book of Abraham in 1880, and representations of Smith as a monogamist.
“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 complaint states.
From 2013 to 2019, the LDS Church published a series of essays via LDS.org that addressed controversial aspects of its history and theology, including Smith’s first vision accounts, his translations, and Book of Mormon-related geography.
LDS historian Steven Snow said a soft launch of that information was intended to “inoculate” members about the “church’s controversial history,” the complaint states.
LDS leadership, however, did not alert followers to the existence of the essays during annual general conferences, Gaddy says, at which its highest-ranking authorities “warned that the Internet has no truth filter and that sifting through the Internet for information is akin to roaming through garbage.”
In 2015, the LDS Church removed what it claimed to be Smith’s seer stone from a vault and allowed it to be photographed.
That act “was the first in over a century where [LDS] openly admitted that its founding prophet used a seer stone to create the Book of Mormon,” the complaint states.
It continues: “Nevertheless, to this day, neither the actual seer stone nor a photo of it has been referenced or shown in General Conference or, upon information and belief, to those attending weekly services in wards or branches.”
Gaddy attended an LDS ward in North Carolina in her youth, where she “sang children’s tunes about Smith’s golden plates being a record made by [the ancient prophet] Nephi and the first vision in the sacred grove where Smith claimed to see two personages, God the Father and his Son.”
She and the proposed class dedicated their “spiritual, educational, cultural and social life to the Mormon Corporate Empire,” which is composed of distinct participation levels: paid general authorities, unpaid local leadership, relevant business entities and the “Mormon Educational Empire,” the complaint states.
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 claims the LDS Church’s false narratives and continuing misrepresentations “caused immeasurable emotional harm in the form of existential crises, suicides, broken families, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, of which [LDS] and members of the Mormon hierarchy are acutely aware.”