Ex-Members Sue Polygamist Church

Associated Press, April 8, 1998

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Three excommunicated members of a polygamist church have sued the sect, claiming its charismatic leader never delivered on a promised face-to-face meeting with Jesus Christ.

The trio say they turned over all of their money and possessions - amounting to $264,390 -- to Jim Harmston, the self-proclaimed prophet of The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday said Harmston took advantage of their "deepest spiritual needs."

Harmston, from his home in Manti, Utah, on Wednesday declined to comment on specifics but said the church probably would countersue.

"We're getting tired of this kind of thing, the defamation and libel that goes on," Harmston said.

Ivan Douglas Jordan, Kaziah May Hancock, who is one of Jordan's wives, and Cindy Stewart said they were excommunicated from the church last year. Hancock said she and Jordan joined in 1993, the church's early days, and have since separated.

The church, with about 300 members, has its roots in Mormonism and teaches that the world will soon end with only its members being saved.

Its faithful believe Harmston is God's spokesman on earth -- a reincarnated Joseph Smith -- and that members can meet Jesus Christ if they consecrate all that they have to the church, Hancock said.

Smith founded the Mormon church in 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- now with some 10 million members worldwide -- disavowed plural marriage in 1890.

Although polygamy is illegal, the crime is not actively prosecuted in Utah.

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