Manti Temple plays pivotal role in the "last days" according to TLC
The plaintiffs, Ivan Douglas Jordan, Kaziah May Hancock and Cindy Stewart were once followers of James D. Harmston, who founded and controls the so-called "True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days."
Harmston refused to take the suit seriously, and insisted instead that it was "humorous." He then claimed, "There isn't much I can say except we will file a response, and it will probably be accompanied by countercharges because we're really getting tired of this harassment.''
James Harmston, who claims he is the reincarnation of Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon Church in the 1800s), began bringing his followers to the Manti area during the 1990s. He and his group are excommunicated Mormons (LDS). Harmston has hundreds of followers and says that the LDS is evil and corrupt and that only he and his people are now the "true church." The Harmston group also practices polygamy.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 1998, claimed former followers Jordan and Hancock gave Harmston and his church a total of $250,000, while Stewart gave $14,390. Their lawyer said they were promised some sort of "stewardship'' over property worth those amounts, which never materialized. Harmston claimed that they gave "nowhere near that kind of money.'' But the plaintiffs said Harmston was guilty of breach of contract, fraud and racketeering.
Harmston convinced the plaintiffs that was the only spokesperson for God on Earth. Attorney Redd said, "After gaining a superior position of confidence with the plaintiffs, Mr. Harmston and other defendants took unfair advantage of that position by persuading the plaintiffs that they must turn over their wealth to the defendants.''
The suit stated the plaintiffs were later excommunicated from Harmston group. They sought not only their money refunded, but also damages and penalties.
Notes: This article is based upon "Utahans file suit claiming fraud on offer to meet Jesus," Salt Lake Tribune, April 10, 1998 By Dan Egan