For many people, their religion is a central element of their identity and their life. It can define a person’s basic philosophy of life as well as their morality. And the philosophy and moral structure most religions provide fit into society fairly well.
But then there are fringe religions that don’t mesh so well with society at large. These religions can make people stick out like a sore thumb due to unusual choices of dress, mannerisms, or moral beliefs at odds with what is considered “normal.” But when the beliefs of one religion were made public, they would turn out to be more than just abnormal…
While the majority of religious people in the United States identify as Christians, Christianity in the US is far from a monolithic religion. Aside from larger denominations such as Catholics, Methodists, or Baptists, there are countless denominations with far fewer members.
Often, those smaller denominations are offshoots of the larger groups that form when a member declares that they have some difference of beliefs fundamental to their faith that is significant enough to make their version of Christianity different enough to be its own thing…
Word From God
That’s exactly what happened when in 2015, one man claimed to have a divine experience. One man from Utah named Samuel had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormons, until on June 22nd, he says that God spoke directly to him.
Visions of Doom
According to Samuel, God told him that the end of the world was near. The armageddon spoken about in the book of Revelations was going to happen soon and it was going to be on American soil…
Just as God had come only to Noah in the Bible to tell him to prepare for the flood, God had supposedly come to Samuel with forewarning of the coming disaster. This time the disaster would be a “Muslim invasion” of the United States. In order to prepare for the invasion, Samuel was to form the Knights of the Crystal Blade.
In its preparation for armageddon, the Knights of the Crystal Blade looked very similar to many other doomsday preparation groups. But unlike those groups, the tiny religious splinter group held some archaic Mormon ideas, long abandoned by the mainstream LDS church…
One of the beliefs that separated Mormonism from nearly all other Christian denominations when it was formed was that its members practiced polygamy, which is when a person marries multiple spouses. The LDS church officially banned polygamy at the turn of the 19th century.
But the Knights of the Crystal Blade didn’t just think that its members could and should practice polygamy. Samuel and the members of his group believed they should be marrying children. And beyond just believing it, they acted on it…
Samuel Shaffer, the “prophet” and founder of the Knights if the Crystal Blade married the 8-year-old daughter of John Coltharp, a member of the Knights. Apparently, that marriage was part of some kind of swap agreement because Coltharp married Shaffer’s 7-year-old daughter.
My Daughter, My Wife
If that wasn’t bad enough, both Shaffer and Coltharp had married one of their own daughters as well, Shaffer to his 5-year-old and Coltharp to his 4-year-old. Shaffer said that marrying multiple children was part of the beliefs handed down to him by God and openly preached those beliefs in writings, podcasts and videos…
“God or Nothing”
Shaffer’s preachings, which were all available on a website called “The Kingdom of God or Nothing” also included a plan to abduct more family children when the Muslim invasion of the United States began.
The Knights of the Crystal Blade first came to the notice of police when an out of state man contacted them to say that Shaffer and Coltharp had “forcefully baptized” him into their religion and “promised a child bride.” The man had travelled to Utah after contacting Shaffer and Coltharp to learn about their religious group…
That incident occurred before the 2 daughters that Shaffer and Coltharp “swapped” had been wed to the 2 men. After they’d been taken out of their respective homes, multiple family members of each man expressed concerns that the 2 young girls were being prepared for marriage.
The police were finally given cause to move against the Knights of the Crystal Blade after a court battle between Coltharp and his ex-wife. She had been awarded full custody of their 2 daughters and 2 sons but when he failed to turn the children over, police went looking for Coltharp…
Where Are They?
The Spring City police department arrested Coltharp at his home on December 1st of 2017. Unfortunately, his children weren’t on the premises. When police questioned him about their whereabouts, he would only say that the 4 children were in Shaffer’s care while refusing to reveal where Shaffer and the children were.
That led investigators to begin a search for the missing children. One of the first places they looked was a compound belonging to Coltharp that was just outside of Lund, Utah, over 3 hours away from Coltharp’s home.
When police raided Coltharp’s compound, they found his 2 sons as well as Coltharp’s parents living in a makeshift home cobbled together from storage containers. They told police that the girls spent the night with Shaffer in a tent on the property. When the girls couldn’t be found on the premises, investigators issued a statewide Amber Alert.
Later in the day, a witness spotted Shaffer walking alone on a dirt road several miles away from the compound. Police arrested him without incident and while being interviewed, he told them where Coltharp’s 2 daughters as well as Shaffer’s 2 daughters were hidden. The older 2 girls were hidden in an abandoned trailer home 5 miles from the compound while the younger 2 were stashed inside of plastic 50-gallon water barrels…
All 4 girls were barefoot, disheveled, and in bad medical condition. They were taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation and to be treated for dehydration. For what they’d done, both Shaffer and Coltharp faced a number of charges, including kidnapping, sodomy of a child, and child bigamy.
Decades Behind Bars
Each man faces the possibility of decades in prison for their crimes. In order to keep the girls from having to testify in court, the prosecution extended a plea deal to Shaffer where he would serve 25 years to life in exchange for a guilty plea which he accepted. The outcome of the charges against Coltharp have yet to be determined.