Religion News Blog — The leader of a religious sect told a 15-year-old girl he was “the Holy Ghost” and promised her “blessings” before forcing her to have sex with him, prosecutors said Tuesday as the man’s rape trial began.
Terrill Dalton, the president of the Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven, is charged with raping the teen and as a party to rape for allegedly commanding her to have sex with another church leader in 2005.
On the first day of testimony, Dalton’s former First Counselor in the church, Geody Harman, said he believed he was obeying a commandment — following one of the church’s “higher doctrines” of “giving seed” — when he had sex with the girl. Harman, 38, said he had experienced an “impression” that he should have sex with the teen and conferred with Dalton.
“It’s God,” Harman testified that Dalton told him. “You better go fulfill it.”
Prosecutors say the alleged victim claims Dalton told her he received a revelation from God telling him to have sex with her so she would be “blessed.” She also says Dalton claims to be the Holy Ghost and forced her to have sex with the first counsel of the church to “seal” the blessing.
“She certainly believed that and was led into a sexual relationship not only with the president of this church but also their first counsel who was part of this organization,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
The Church of the First Born of the General Assembly of Heaven was founded by Dalton in 2004.
The group moved to Idaho in the summer of 2009, after their home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Magna was raided by federal officials investigating claims of child sexual abuse and assassination threats against President Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In March, 2010 the group moved again, this time to Montana.
Dalton and Harman were arrested in August that year.
Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven
The name of the church is derived from a Bible verse in Hebrews 12:23, which mentions the ‘the general assembly and church of the firstborn.’ There are a number of churches that use similar names based on this phrase.
The group founded and led by Terrill Dalton is said to never have had more than 100 members. Dalton himself says the church at one time has as many as 50 members, but media reports say the church had only 30 followers when it was located in Idaho. By the time the group settled in Montana, Geody Harman said there were 16 members — which, a local newspaper pointed out, included Harman’s wife and their nine children.
Dalton grew up as an active member of the Mormon Church, but eventually said ‘the Lord’ told him that the Mormon church had strayed from its founding principles. He says that in 2004 he received a revelation telling him to start a new church.
In a March, 2010 report on the group, the Billings Gazette wrote that Dalton
described a two-day fast that ended with a vision of Jesus Christ, who visited him several times in the following days. It was during one of these visits that he said he was told he was the Holy Ghost and the father of Jesus Christ.
“I know how that sounds, but I don’t think of myself as anything great,” he said. He later met Harman, who described having revelations of his own.
Dalton said over the years he had been collecting stones he felt produced a “unique energy.” He said he showed the stones to Harman, who found several of them to be especially powerful “seer stones.”
Holding the seer stones, Harman said he has been able to view and translate ancient records that help clarify the new church’s mission. Some of the revelations have been published on the church’s Web site.
The website has since been taken offline, but an archived version can still be viewed at the Internet Archive.