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Southern California Record

August 31, 2021 — An article by the Southern California Record covered the steadfast defense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church") that no tithing money was spent on developing a commercial shopping center, as claimed by plaintiff James Huntsman in Huntsman v. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints et al. 

Mr. Hunstman seeks "a refund of some $5 million he allegedly tithed to the Church along with interest and penalties," the article reported. Partner Rick Richmond, who is representing the LDS Church and filed a motion to dismiss the case on Aug. 9, staunchly opposed Mr. Hunstman's assertions, stating, "All of Mr. Hunstamn's contributions to the Church were voluntary and were given with no strings attached. The law says he cannot get them back."

The article explained the history of the LDS Church investing contributions in commercial activities since its founding in Utah in 1847 as a way for its members to become self-sufficient, with Rick noting, "The Church has always invested in various commercial activities in the early days just as a matter of survival and in later days as a way of investing some amount of reserves in a variety of ways to create a cushion for a rainy day."

Mr. Hunstman's case accuses the LDS Church of "misusing the tithes of followers" and alleges it "spent tithes on commercial real estate projects instead of on missionary work, temple construction, and charitable projects," the article reported. A recent testimony by David Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager of the LDS Church's investment arm Ensign Peak Advisors, was offered in support of Mr. Hunstman's position, but Rick said Mr. Nielsen is "mistaken."

"There are 120-pages of financial records submitted to the court that prove he’s wrong," he told the Southern California Record. Rick and the Larson LLP team of Matthew Manacek, Troy Tessem, and Nate Wright submitted additional papers on behalf of the LDS Church on Aug. 23, at which time U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson decided to cancel the highly anticipated hearing and rule on whether or not to dismiss the case based on the papers submitted. 

Rick went on to say, "Mr. Huntsman began making his contributions to the Church long before the City Creek project began, all during the development of the project, and after the project was finished," Richmond added. "He only stopped making contributions because he stopped believing in Church doctrines, lost his faith, and then quit the Church."

Read the full article by Juliette Fairley of the Southern California Record here. The case's recent developments have also been covered by Tony Semerad of The Salt Lake Tribune here and Ben Winslow of FOX 13 here.