LDS Church officials say they are working with the Thailand government concerning the arrest of a mission president and charges against a church general authority.
Anan Eldredge, a U.S. citizen born in Thailand, is facing criminal charges for writing an article that says Buddhist monks normally don't understand the prayers they chant, police said Friday.Capt. Visoot Chatchaidet said Eldredge surrendered to police Dec. 17 and was free on bail pending court proceedings.
Chatchaidet said similar charges have been filed against Elder Hugh W. Pinnock, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Pinnock, whose office is in Utah, was connected with the international magazine that reported some of Eldredge's remarks.
The Thai government's Religious Affairs Department filed a complaint with the police May 15 and an investigation followed. Chatachaidet said police contacted Eldredge on Dec. 17 and he surrendered to police. He was released two days later after bail was arranged.
Eldredge has been charged with falsely defaming Thai monks and printing a publication without proper permission. If found guilty he faces a jail term of not more than one year or a fine not exceeding 5,000 baht ($200 U.S.).
The case goes to court in mid-January, the police captain said in a telephone interview.
The church is working with Thai government officials concerning the arrest, a spokesman said.
The article appeared in Rom Cion, a Thai-language version of the LDS Church's international magazine. The article said the practice of chanting prayers without knowing their meaning is foolish.
A prepared statement released Thursday by the church in Salt Lake City hinted there are other reasons behind the arrest.
"The charges against President Anan Eldredge, a native Thai, have just been received in Thailand. They are being studied, but few details are known at this moment," said Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of public communications and special affairs for the church.
"Since President Eldredge's talk to a church audience urging them to live their religion was published in the magazine in the spring of 1990 and was known to government officials at that time, his arrest in December seems to be related to recent changes in government personnel rather than to the alleged insults to Buddhist monks," Olsen said in a prepared statement.
"Our church leaders in Asia are cooperating with Thai officials in an effort to resolve the matter," he said.
The majority of Thais practice Buddhism, but freedom of worship for other religions has been traditionally allowed.