Tiny religious sect from Utah, Idaho moves to Montana

The Associated Press/March 26, 2010

Fromberg, Mont. - A religious sect whose house was raided by federal agents in Utah and whose building plans were rejected in Idaho has settled in southern Montana.

Members of the Church of the Firstborn and General Assembly of Heaven left Fort Hall, Idaho, in October after their proposal to build a three-story, 18,000-square-foot motel-like building on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation was rejected by the Shoshone and Bannock tribes.

About 16 members of the group have moved into two rental houses on a 5-acre lot in the Fromberg area.

"We all prayed about where to go next, and a lot of people had the same feeling that we ought to go to Montana, somewhere nigh unto Billings, not the city, but nearby," said Terrill Dalton.

Dalton, 43, said he grew up as a Mormon but received a revelation in 2004 -- in which Jesus Christ called him the Holy Ghost -- that he should start a new church.

Co-leader Geody Harman, 36, his wife and their nine children are among the remaining 16 members of the church. Harman said the church had about 30 members when they lived in Idaho, but many of them left the group "weary of the persecution against them."

Last May, the church's headquarters in Magna, Utah, was raided by federal agents 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.

Investigators found nothing and no one has been charged, Dalton said. He said the allegations were invented by a rival church member who was involved in a child custody dispute with Dalton's wife. They are now divorced. A month after the Utah raid, the religious group moved to Idaho. Dalton said they hoped to build a dormitory-like building where church members could live together. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Council rejected their request for a building permit, saying it would strain the reservation's water and septic services.

Once the church's property in Idaho is sold, Dalton said they hope to buy the Fromberg property they are currently renting.

The fact that the previous renter, Larry Daniels, killed his son in one of the houses weeks before they arrived doesn't bother them.

"It's OK. We prayed about it. Things happen," Dalton said.

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