Religious cult that inspired tragedy re-emerging in Salt Lake

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It was one of Utah's most shocking moments, 30 years ago this month, seven children and their mother jumped or were thrown from an 11th floor balcony. Only one child survived. Now, the family's tiny religious cult has re-emerged in Salt Lake.

Matthias David says Immanuel David was actually God the Father and Jesus Christ. It was Immanuel David's family that destroyed themselves 30 years ago in a stunning incident at a downtown hotel. Seven children jumped or were thrown from an 11th floor balcony by their mother, who then jumped herself.

Religious cult that inspired tragedy re-emerging in Salt Lake

A witness of the August 1978 event said, "People were shouting, ‘No! Stop!' There was no noise at all. She simply lifted them up and tossed them one at a time."

The children's father, Immanuel David, committed suicide himself just a couple of days earlier, just as the FBI was closing in on him.

Matthias says, "They couldn't live without him. Can you imagine what kind of faith it would take for a whole family to leap from the 11th floor of a hotel? Can you imagine what kind of faith that would take?"

Some people would say it's more a sign of madness or obsession, but Matthias' answer to that is, "Well, they can think what they want, but that's not true."

In recent weeks, Matthias has been sending letters to LDS Church leaders and the media, proclaiming Immanuel David as God. The cult was tiny 30 years ago and remains that way today with only a handful of true believers.

Matthias predicts fire from the sky will eventually destroy David's enemies. "I think Mt. Timpanogos is going to land on Manti. It will be picked up and dropped on Manti." However, he says he' not personally proposing to do anything destructive."

The only surviving child was 15-year-old Rachel. Severely injured, she lived with believers until about three years ago. Now, Matthias says, "She's in Sandpoint, ID, in a care center there, a real nice care center."

Whether it was religious belief or madness, that day at the hotel was a community trauma that haunted Salt Lake for years.

In the 1970s, FBI officials accused Immanuel David and his followers of supporting the group through fraudulent fundraising. Matthias David admits he pled guilty then to wire fraud but claims now he didn't really do it.

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John Hollenhorst


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