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LDS Church calls activity of Tim Ballard 'morally unacceptable'

Posted at 1:56 PM, Sep 15, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has denounced the founder and former leader of Operation Underground Railroad, saying he used the name of a church leader for his own personal gain.

WATCH: Video shows Ballard walking out of FOX 13 interview, upset with questions over investigation into organization

VICE News reports Tim Ballard, the founder and former leader of O.U.R., an organization that claims its mission is to rescue children from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, used President M. Russell Ballard's name to involve the church in his personal and financial interests.

President Ballard serves as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles within the church, one of the highest levels of leadership within the organization.

Tim Ballard and the church authority are not related in any way, church officials said in a statement to FOX 13 News, although they established a friendship "a number of years ago."

VICE reports Tim used President Ballard's name to claim OUR and his personal ventures were backed by the high-level church leader.

A statement from church officials explains that while the men shared a friendship in the past, "built on a shared interest in looking after God's children," that relationship was cut off.

"Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association," the statement reads in part. "President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests. In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, funded, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them."

Ballard left O.U.R., the organization he began more than a decade ago, a few months ago. Over the summer, the movie "The Sound of Freedom" explored the mission of the organization and its global reach.