In July, the Utah Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in the case of two women who sued the leaders of the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days in 2001. The women sued for fraud and breach of contract (among other things), saying they had given the church all their money in exchange for promises of land, more money, and a face-to-face visit with Jesus, none of which was delivered.
The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days was founded by persons excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who retaliated by founding their own church and giving it an even longer and more impressive name. Plaintiffs Keziah Hancock (an artist also known as “Keziah the Goat Woman”) and Cindy Stewart said they had given all their money to the TLCJCSLD in exchange for promises that were never fulfilled. The plaintiffs’ attorney was careful to point out that the lawsuit sought compensation only for the promises of land and money, although the court papers do complain that the promised meeting with the Savior did not take place. (This is not my specialty, but I do recall that a court can’t order specific performance of personal services even by earthly celebrities, so it was probably a good call not to demand that the church produce the Savior.)
The defendants’ attorney, meanwhile, had argued that the promises could not be enforced because they were rooted in church doctrine, not in a business contract, and because the promises were intended to be fulfilled by God, not by church officials directly. Okay, I’ve heard of the “empty chair” defense, but never one that pointed the finger at God. Seems kind of risky to me.
In 2002, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $300,000, but the judge threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial on only certain limited claims. The Court of Appeals ruled that the claims should not have been limited.
The TLCCSLD was also in the news in 2002, after it posted a statement on its website that the world was about to come to an end and only TLCCSLD members would survive.