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Appeals Court revives suit brought by church members

Published July 9, 2005 12:09 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit brought by church members who claimed their donations failed to net them a face-to-face meeting with Jesus Christ and other promised benefits.

Kaziah May Hancock and Cindy Stewart joined The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days - a Sanpete County polygamist sect - during the mid-1990s.

Hancock claims church leaders promised her "stewardship" of property worth the equivalent of a $250,000 donation to the church and a meeting with Jesus.

Stewart says she liquidated her retirement savings and gave $15,766 to the church but was never repaid as promised.

Their case went to trial in 2002, and jurors entered a verdict in their favor. Afterward, 6th District Judge David Mower granted a request for a new trial on the grounds that there wasn't enough information presented to apportion the damages among defendants. In addition to the church, defendants include church founder James D. Harmston, William B. Lithgow, Keith Larson, Daniel Simmons, Kay Crabtree, Jeff Hanks, Bart Mulstrom, John Harper, and five John Does.

An amended lawsuit was filed, but Mower dismissed claims in that suit, including fraud, racketeering and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The judge refused to allow the two to file a third amended lawsuit, saying it asked him to judge the church's religious doctrines.

Not so, said the appeals court Friday.

The request to amend the suit for a third time was timely, and some claims included decidedly secular alleged wrongs of repayment, the appellate judges said. The ruling sends the case back to court for further proceedings.

Members of the True and Living Church number about 300 and include excommunicated Mormons.

They claim The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - which abandoned polygamy in 1890 - has become evil and corrupt in abandoning the teachings of founder Joseph Smith.

Hancock and Stewart are no longer members of the church.





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