Tom Phillips, former high-level Mormon church leader and current church critic, has been busy. Earlier today he posted images on his own site mormonthink.com showing images of a court summons for Thomas S. Monson to appear in a U.K. court to answer charges of fraud.
The summons above posted on mormonthink.org reads as follows:
Information has been laid by Thomas Phillips of Kemp House, 152-60 City Road, London EC14 2 NX, UK
Before me the undersigned
That between 3rd February 2008 and 31st December 2013 dishonestly and intending thereby to make a gain for himself or another or a loss or risk of loss to another made or caused to be made representations to Stephen Colin Bloor, which were and which you knew were or might be untrue or misleading and thereby induce the said Stephen Colin Bloor to pay an annual tithe to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, namely that
i) The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith.
ii) The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph |Smith [sic] is the most correct book on earth and is an ancient historical record.
iii) Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.
iv) Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon.
v) The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith.
vi) There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago
vii) All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago
Contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006
You are therefore summoned to appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court, 181 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5BR on 14/03/ 2014 at 10AM in Courtroom 6 to answer the said information
Failure to attend may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
District Judge (Magistrates’ Court)
The maximum sentence for a conviction under the relevant portions of the Fraud Act is 10 years for each count, or 70 years for all counts.
Phillips simultaneously posted on the popular ex-mormon sub-Reddit explaining the summons. No further information was posted or is yet available regarding the evidence that Phillips presented to the U.K. magistrate, but U.K. law apparently would have required some specific evidence tying President Monson to the alleged misrepresentations before such a summons was issued.
What does this mean?
Assuming the summons is legitimate, this is bad news for the Mormon church no matter how events play out. Having your most prominent leader charged with fraud in a court is never a good thing for credibility. Even if the summons is never delivered, the publicity alone could be harmful.
If the church and Mr. Monson refuse to answer the summons, as appears likely, a warrant may be issued for his arrest. The U.K. court would likely avoid such a move if they can quietly avoid it, but with a push it’s possible an arrest warrant could be issued for the Mormon prophet. In that event it is even less likely that the U.S. would extradite Monson to the U.K. to face charges. Monson would, however, essentially be a fugitive from U.K. law and be unable to visit church members in the United Kingdom.
Ultimately the summons or the claims in the summons are unlikely to result in jail time or sentences of any sort for Mormon leaders. Negative publicity from the case and the evidence itself in the case could, however, severely damage the image of the Mormon church throughout the world.