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Former CIA agent Tim Ballard’s membership of the Mormon church is in doubt after a records search showed he does not appear on the institution’s database, fueling suggestions he has been excommunicated, DailyMail.com has learned.

Ballard, whose story was turned into the hit film ‘Sound of Freedom’ starring Jim Caviezel, has been accused by several women of sexual harassment during his leadership of the anti-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).

The 47-year-old is alleged to have pushed the women into sharing a bed with him or showering together, telling them it was to convince traffickers they were married.

In response, the Mormon church – of which Ballard is a member – last month released a coded statement condemning ‘activity regarded as morally unacceptable’, without stating what this activity was.

But it appears the church has now severed ties with the married father-of-nine altogether, with a search of its internal database failing to produce his records.

Tim Ballard appears to have been excommunicated by the Mormon church after seven women accused him of sexual misconduct during missions for his anti-trafficking organization

Ballard is said to have sent at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear and to have asked another ‘how far she was willing to go’ to save children, according to one source

A screenshot of the Mormon church’s internal database shows Tim Ballard’s does not appear on a family directory, with his wife, Katherine, instead listed as ‘Head of Household’. His children’s names have been redacted to protect their anonymity

It follows reports that a church disciplinary council was held on September 27 before Ballard received a letter notifying him of his excommunication two days later.

The church has not confirmed this and Ballard’s wife, Katherine, said that the couple were ‘in touch’ with their local church leaders, but that ‘such conversations – as required by the church – are strictly confidential and extremely personal’.

She added: ‘We are complying fully and remain committed to our family and our faith.’

Sources have told DailyMail.com the Mormon church is seeking to protect its own legal position by distancing itself from Ballard, but its tentative public position suggests it is fearful of alienating its base, many of whom are fiercely loyal to Ballard and his work.

Excommunication would mark a dizzying fall from grace for Ballard who had recently touted a run for the Senate.

John Dehlin, host of the popular Mormon Stories podcast, who himself was excommunicated in 2015, told DailyMail.com that the most severe of church punishments, generally reserved for what are seen as the most serious of sins, would be nothing other than ‘devastating’ for the devout member, ‘personally, socially, and financially’.

How did Ballard go from hero to zero? 

Ballard had been riding the crest of a wave created by the worldwide success of ‘Sound of Freedom’ – a movie based loosely on his exploits with Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), an anti-trafficking organization he founded that claimed to rescue children from sex slavery, but has since been accused of exaggerating its achievements.

The movie, in which Ballard is played by Jim Caviezel, brought in $14million and hit the top of the box office in Latin America.

It has been suggested that the casting of an actor most famous for playing Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was not coincidental, with Ballard previously having stated his belief that he was directly called by God to ‘find the lost children’.

Whether the parallels were crafted or not, the movie was a huge boost to the real-life operative’s ambitions.

Seeking to capitalize, Ballard last month announced he was ‘very seriously considering’ bidding for Mitt Romney’s Utah Senate seat after his fellow Mormon had announced he would not be running for a second term.

Ballard looked set to secure the endorsement of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who said Romney’s retirement would ‘open up an opportunity for a dear friend of mine…who will be making an announcement in the days to come and I will be standing alongside this servant leader’.

Reyes and Ballard are close friends and the comments were interpreted as a less than subtle nod towards the OUR founder.

Just last month Ballard had said he was ‘seriously’ considering a run for the Utah Senate following the success of Sound of Freedom, a movie based on his anti-trafficking exploits

It came after Mitt Romney, 76, also a high profile member of the Mormon church, had sent shockwaves through Congress after announcing he would not be running for a second term

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes appeared set to endorse Ballard for the candidacy before distancing himself from his lifelong friend after the sexual misconduct allegations emerged

But just days after Ballard touted his candidacy, Vice News reported seven women who had worked with OUR had made claims of sexual misconduct against him.

The former CIA agent had left OUR earlier in the year amid reports of an internal investigation, but this was the first time details of the claims against him had been made public.

It was alleged that the self-styled anti-slavery activist invited women to act as his ‘wife’ on undercover overseas missions aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking, before cajoling these women into sexually intimate scenarios.

Ballard is said to have sent at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear, covered in fake tattoos, and to have asked another ‘how far she was willing to go’ to save children, according to one source.

Why did the Mormon church get involved?

The Mormon church has a checkered track record of denouncing members accused of sexual abuse.

It has been accused by victims in prior lawsuits of covering up misconduct and protecting perpetrators in order to preserve its own reputation.

Its public rebuke of a potential future Senate representative is out of character, but could be explained by the church’s own alleged involvement in OUR’s missions.

Behind closed doors, Ballard had been claiming that his anti-trafficking activities had the backing of the senior member of the church’s second-highest leadership body, President M. Russell Ballard, according to a closed criminal investigation into OUR conducted by a Utah county attorney and the FBI.

The two Ballards are no relation but had developed close ties, something that is not denied by the Mormon church.

What it does dispute, however, is Tim Ballard’s claims, revealed by the FBI probe, that the Elder Ballard gave his blessing for OUR’s exploits to form part of a larger mission to bring Americans to the Mormon faith.

A former OUR member told investigators that ‘Tim is fully convinced that he is supposed to be the “Mormon Messiah and lead people back to the church”‘.

Indeed, conservative personality and Mormon Eric Moutsos has claimed he has spoken to at least four women who have claimed Ballard told them that his activities were endorsed M. Russell Ballard in a bid to persuade them to partake in missions.

In response, a spokesman for the Mormon church told Vice News that while the pair had built a friendship based on ‘a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are…that relationship is in the past’.

The statement added that ‘once it became clear that 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’.

Sound of Freedom, in which Ballard is played by Jim Caviezel, brought in $14million and hit the top of the box office in Latin America

Caviezel is most famous for playing Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Ballard has said he believes that he was directly called by God to ‘find the lost children’

A former member of Operation Underground Railroad, the anti-trafficking organization Ballard founded, told an FBI investigation that the former CIA agent ‘is fully convinced that he is supposed to be the “Mormon Messiah and lead people back to the church”‘

What does Ballard have to say for himself?

The OUR founder initially angrily denied the allegations against him, even questioning the authenticity of the church’s statement.

‘It’s not true, nothing you hear is true,’ he said in a video filmed by one of his supporters.

Ballard claimed ‘something evil is going on’ and denied that he had ever used Elder Ballard’s name.

In a subsequent video posted to Instagram, he appeared to accept that his missions did involve pairing up with fake wives on missions, but said this was a legitimate tactic known as the ‘couples ruse’ that was deployed to fool traffickers.

He claimed it allowed male operatives to turn down offers of underage sex from traffickers by claiming their wife would disapprove, while retaining credibility.

Ballard also appeared alongside his wife on comedian Adam Carolla’s podcast and again denied sexually inappropriate behavior.

During the show, Ballard shared a picture of himself in boxer briefs covered in henna tattoos, including one of the word ‘joder’, Spanish for f***), which appeared to fit the description of a photo he had allegedly sent to some of his female accusers.

Ballard claimed the photo was taken by a staffer and sent to operators to be ‘archived’.

How have his supporters reacted?

But his supporters appear to be deserting him. Reyes said he was ‘shocked and deeply saddened’ by the allegations against his lifelong friend and appeared to row back on his earlier statement by saying he wouldn’t be endorsing anyone in Utah’s upcoming 2024 Senate race.

Prominent conservative commentator Glenn Beck, one of Ballard’s highest-profile and long-standing supporters, said this week he believes he was ‘duped’ by the OUR founder and said the claims of sexual misconduct were ‘really bad’.

OUR, for its part, has confirmed that Ballard resigned on June 22 this year and is permanently separated from the organization.

A spokesman added that it is ‘dedicated to combatting sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization’.

Tim Ballard had claimed his anti-trafficking activities had been blessed by Mormon church Elder M. Russell Ballard as a means of converting more Americans to the Utah-based faith, according to a since-closed FBI investigation. The church denies Elder Ballard did so

Ballard’s wife, Katherine, has stood by her husband in the wake of the allegations against him

She told DailyMail.com that the couple were in touch with their local church leaders and ‘remain committed to our family and our faith’

On September 28, an attorney representing several former female OUR employees said that her clients were ‘subjected to sexual harassment, spiritual manipulation, grooming and sexual misconduct’.

Suzette Rasmussen said the women ‘now stand together to affirm the truth behind these allegations’.

Speaking on behalf of her clients at a press conference on the steps of the Utah Capital, Rasmussen said that ‘we will reveal our stories in our own time and on our own terms’, but did not provide further details on the nature of Ballard’s alleged misconduct or whether the women planned to sue.

Has Ballard been excommunicated?

It all appears to have become too much to stomach for the Mormon church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

A church disciplinary council was held on September 27 and Ballard was notified of his excommunication two days later, according to Dehlin, who said the account was relayed to him by multiple well-placed sources.

DailyMail.com has been provided with a screenshot of an internal search of the church’s ‘Tools for Leaders’ database, carried out by a current bishop at Dehlin’s request, which shows Tim Ballard’s name does not come up on his family directory and his wife, Katherine, is instead listed as the head of the household.

Dehlin told DailyMail.com it would be ‘hard to beat that as evidence’ for excommunication, barring confirmation from either Ballard or the church.

In a highly patriarchal religion, the only reasons a wife would appear as head of household would be if the husband had been excommunicated or there had been a divorce – and the latter can seemingly be ruled out given Katherine’s public support for Tim. 

Dehlin said conspiracists might suggest that Ballard’s records had been hidden by the church, but that he did not believe this was ‘a credible explanation’.

It appears Ballard is not ready to back down, however, with sources claiming he had been telling his inner circle that he had been excommunicated for going to strip clubs as part of OUR operations, despite having cleared this in advance with his local bishop in advance, Dehlin added.

Yet this explanation appears unlikely. The church handbook lists specific grounds for excommunication and visiting strip clubs would not meet its criteria, said Dehlin, who was excommunicated after he repeatedly clashed with church over its opposition to same-sex marriage.

While the church announced that in a public statement, it has so far refused to do so in Ballard’s case and did not respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com. 

Ballard has vehemently denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and the fact that he used a Mormon church leader’s name to promote his activities. In a video post to social media (pictured) he even cast doubt on the authenticity of the church statement condemning him

It has been suggested that the church is reluctant to publicly confirm Ballard’s excommunication for fearing of alienating its conservative, Trump supporting base. Donald Trump was the first guest on Ballard’s podcast, alongside Caviezel

Dehlin suggests this is because the leadership is walking a tightrope between distancing itself from damaging allegations against Ballard, who has claimed his actions were backed by the church, and angering its conservative base, with whom the anti-trafficking activist is hugely popular.

Indeed, some Mormon blogs are already criticizing the church’s handling of the missionary’s case, with members even speculating of a plot between Romney and the Mormon hierarchy to bulldoze Ballard’s bid for Senate.

‘Its authority and reputation are the two things most sacred to the Mormon church by far,’ Dehlin said.

‘It is trying to manage its public reputation and legal risks, but it’s hard to balance that with not alienating its base, a huge percentage of which is MAGA, Trump-supporters.

‘The church wants Ballard gone, but they don’t want to publicize it to the membership.’

While things look bleak for the man who briefly looked like he could be Utah’s next Senator, Dehlin has one last revelation that could mean his race is not run yet.

Ballard had reportedly told friends that Jesus himself had appeared to him and said he would be returning soon and that he should run for Senate and announce his candidacy on October 10.

A key tenet of Mormon belief is the Second Coming. 

‘If Jesus hasn’t changed his mind, expect to see Ballard announcing his candidacy in a couple of days,’ Dehlin said.

Watch this space.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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