Editors note: James Dee Harmston died Thursday. Below is a Salt Lake Tribune article from April 26, 1998, discussing him and his polygamous group, The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days. The headline read: "Hex, Wives and Videotape: Polygamist Leader Shaking Up Manti."
Manti • Jim Harmston is a polygamist who calls Mormons ``morons’’ and swears he will turn LDS Church leader Boyd K. Packer black.
He acknowledges that one of his wives, a teen-ager, is not a good lover, but gloats that ``she’s the most cuddling little thing you ever saw in all your life.’’
Harmston’s critics say these rants and boasts, caught on video and audio tapes, are an accurate taste of the wackiness and wickedness brewing behind the doors of Harmston’s 4-year-old, 300-member polygamist church.
Harmston likely isn’t happy copies of the cassettes are in the hands of people who do not belong to his ``True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days’’ (TLC), which is headquartered in a tidy bright-red brick building across from City Hall in Manti, a central Utah city of 3,000.
He also likely is bugged that some in his flock have strayed — all the way into 6th District Court, where they hope to convince a jury Harmston duped them out of more than $250,000, then failed to deliver Jesus Christ in the living flesh as they were promised.
But if Harmston is unhappy, he isn’t talking.
``You won’t get a single soul inside this church that will talk to you until we’re ready to deal with the issue in the courts,’’ says Harmston, a 57-year-old ex-Realtor who moved to Manti from the Wasatch Front earlier this decade.
There are two tapes circulating about Manti, and residents are popping copies into their VCRs with a mix of trepidation and prurient glee. For four years they have quietly wondered what went on behind TLC’s closed doors, and now they have got a glimpse.
A 3 1/2-hour videotape of a Feb. 23 sermon given by Harmston, taped by church leaders, was obtained by former TLC member Rodney Cloward days before he quit the church. Cloward also surreptitiously made an audio tape where Harmston acknowledged taking a 16-year-old bride, though Harmston and the girl are not legally married.
About half the male members of TLC have more than one wife.
Cloward said he is making the tapes public to expose Harmston for what he is: ``a cold-natured, non-compassionate-type man, in the way he robs the poor.’’
Other ex-members are suing Harmston with the same goal in mind.
``This is not about the money,’’ says Cindy Stewart, one of three plaintiffs suing Harmston for $264,390 they say they gave TLC. ``The reason I’m doing this is so not one more person gets sucked in.’’
Harmston has denied he has inappropriately taken any money from TLC members.
``They [the plaintiffs] made contributions to the church in the form of donations, but it’s nowhere near that kind of money,’’ Harmston said earlier this month.
``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.’’
The plaintiffs claim they gave Harmston almost everything they had because he convinced them that he was the only way they would get to meet Jesus Christ.
``You think we’re insane?’’ Stewart asks. ``Maybe we were. But we’ve woken up.’’Next Page >
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