These Mormons Have Found a New Faith — in Magic Mushrooms

On a Sunday afternoon in March, a group of 30 strangers huddle under a park pavilion in Salt Lake City, Utah, sipping hot cocoa and shaking hands shyly as snow clots the cottonwoods. A clean-cut gang of mostly white professionals, they are united by their interest in the Divine Assembly, a two-year old church with 3,000 members that considers psilocybin its holy sacrament. 

The church’s co-founders, husband and wife Steve and Sara Urquhart, mingle quietly with the psychedelic-curious, many of whom are either new to tripping or considering their maiden voyage. Steve sticks to the sidelines, every so often reaching to smooth a conical white beard that, combined with his blue eyes and bearlike frame, make him look like a punk Santa Claus. The long beard is the only outer marker of his new identity: Before pivoting to mushroom churches, Urquhart was one of the most powerful Republicans in the Utah State Legislature, serving from 2001 to 2016, with a stint as majority whip in the House before eventually moving over to the Senate. Former colleagues and friends recall his small-government brand of Republicanism as “rock-ribbed.” He was also, like more than 60 percent of Utah and approximately 86 percent of the Legislature in 2021, deeply, devoutly Mormon. 

“We were all the way in,” Urqhuart says of the proudly peculiar American religion with about 6.7 million adherents in the U.S. and about 16.6 million globally. Founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 during the Second Great Awakening in upstate New York, Mormonism (or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as church authorities requested it be called in 2018, though many Latter-day Saints, or Saints for short, still use the term “Mormon”) bases its teachings on the revelations of Smith, whom they consider a prophet. According to Smith, who claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from a pair of gold plates inscribed with “reformed Egyptian,” Latter-day Saints are God’s chosen people destined to restore the original Christian gospel — a gospel that included, they professed up until 1890, polygamy. 

“I knew all the secret handshakes,” Urquhart later divulges after one shot of tequila, and he means it quite literally, demonstrating a dizzying pattern of grips, bumps, and daps that look straight out of a Monty Python skit. 

In all likelihood, Urquhart and others believe now, Smith lifted those handshakes and many other ceremonial elements from the Freemasons, the then-popular secret society that counted Smith as a member. Urquhart also believes, 100 percent seriously, that the LDS Church (the mainstream one he and Mitt Romney are from, not the fundamentalist offshoots depicted in Under the Banner of Heaven) is a cult. Specifically, he says, alluding to the church’s polygamist history and fact that some bishops still ask teens if they are masturbating, “a sex cult with really bad sex.”

Church or cult, Urquhart crashed out of it around 2008. In the park that Sunday, he is in good company. Although the Divine Assembly is not limited to former LDS members, or “post-Mormons” as they refer to themselves, the majority of the crowd by default is, and they’re aching for a new kind of spirituality to fill the void. One couple, Yesenia and Guillermo Ramos, tell me they left the LDS Church in 2012, after it began to feel like the opposite of what they thought it stood for. “God is love,” Yesenia says with conviction, but within the church, she says she felt judged for her decision to be both a mom and a nurse, rather than a stay-at-home mom. Furthermore, Yesenia says, she was sick of the pressure to appear perfect all the time, a common complaint among LDS women that Dr. Curtis Canning, president of the Utah Psychiatric Association, has called “Mother of Zion Syndrome.”

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Utah Ritualized Sexual Abuse Investigation: Is There a History of Ritual Abuse in Utah?

As the Utah primary draws near, the investigation into “ritualized child sexual abuse” has garnered more than 120 tips related to claims of ritualistic sex rings. Let’s examine the history of these allegations in Utah.

In the nearly 4 weeks since the Utah County Sheriff’s Office announced an investigation into allegations of “ritualized child sexual abuse” in three Utah counties, they have received more than 120 tips in the form of phone calls, texts, and emails. UCSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Spencer Cannon told the Salt Lake Tribune that the office has “pulled in” sergeants with experience in sex assault cases to help review the information.

The Last American Vagabond (TLAV) has been following the unusual situation since May 31st when the Utah County Sheriff’s Office announced they were working with multiple county and federal agencies investigating reports of ritualistic child sexual abuse from as far back as 1990. The Sheriff’s Office said the investigation began in April 2021. The investigation subsequently discovered previous reports alleging “similar forms of ritualistic sexual abuse and trafficking” that occurred in Utah County, Juab County, and Sanpete County during the time between 1990 and 2010.

Following the  announcement of this investigation by Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt held a press conference where he shared a 151-page document titled “victim statement” related to a 2012 case involving allegations of sexual abuse of children. Leavitt and several other people are named in the statement as being involved with a group practicing ritual child sex abuse. He claimed the Sheriff’s investigation was a political attack on him related to the June 28th primary elections in Utah.

As TLAV reported last week, courtroom records revealed that Utah County Attorney David Leavitt lied when he said the 2012 case was dismissed by his predecessor because it was “unbelievable,” lacking evidence, and the story of a “tragically mentally ill” woman.

The Salt Lake Tribune has also reported that USCO Sgt. Cannon said the report that Leavitt was referencing was not what started the sheriff’s investigation last year. “We had a victim come forward and disclose abuse of this nature,” Cannon told the SLT. “And so that’s what started our investigation. The case that David Leavitt spoke about is not the case we initially started investigating. It’s not the case that we became aware of in April of last year.”

Cannon did acknowledge that the detectives became aware of the 2012 case and the allegations against therapist David Lee Hamblin, but did not say if the case was part of the current investigation.

As Utahans prepare to vote in the primary on June 28th — a race in which both Sheriff Mike Smith and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt are both up for re-election — we wait to see if there will be any additional announcements, indictments, subpoenas or any official action taken.

To better understand this current investigation, we have examined hundreds of pages of Utah government documents, articles, and allegations of ritualized sexual abuse to paint a picture of this history.

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Google Worker Fired For Blowing The Whistle on ‘Spiritual Organization’ Within Company That’s Been Accused of Sex Trafficking

Google fired one of its employees for blowing the whistle on a “doomsday” cult-like “spiritual organization” within the company.

The employee, Kevin Lloyd, a video producer who worked in the Google Developer Studio, is now suing the tech giant, claiming he was unfairly fired in retaliation after he raised alarm about the religious group.

Lloyd warns the group called the Fellowship of Friends has increasingly gained power at the company by hiring members of its cult-like organization to fill key positions.

Members of the Fellowship of Friends believe they are called to create a new civilization following a doomsday event and implores its followers to attain enlightenment to transcend a state of “waking sleep” state.  The group, which has approximately 1,500 members internationally,  also believes enlightenment is attained by embracing arts including ballet, painting, opera and wine. Friends of Fellowship

The alleged cult-like organization, which collects 10 percent of its’ members’ income, was founded in the 1970s by Robert Earl Burton, who has been sued for sexually assaulting male members of the group.

“Once you become aware of this, you become responsible,” Kevin Lloyd told the New York Times while recounting his decision to sound the alarm on the group’s infiltration of Google. “You can’t look away.”

In his lawsuit, which was filed in a Californian Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd claims Peter Lubbersthe, director of the Google Developer Studio and a member of Fellowship of Friends, is funneling money from Google to enrich the religious organization and that he was wrongfully terminated for informing his supervisors about the issue.

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Biden To Remove 5 Extremist Groups From Foreign Terrorist List

Democrat President Joe Biden is reportedly set to remove five extremist groups from the official Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly claimed in a notification to Congress that each of the organizations is now defunct.

“The groups include Basque Fatherland and Liberty, also known as ETA; Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cult; Kahane Kach, a radical Orthodox Jewish group, as well as two Islamic groups, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, and Gama’a al-Islamiyya,” Fox News reported.

“The Biden administration dragged out briefings about this for months, then went radio silent, then quietly rushed it through hoping no one would notice until it was a done deal,” a senior Republican congressional aide told the network. “Republicans on the Hill believe this was a dress rehearsal for trying to remove terrorism sanctions on the IRGC.”

The move comes as Biden is reportedly considering lifting the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in exchange for a public commitment from Iran that they will play nice in the region.

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FBI Accused of Doctoring Evidence in Child Sex Trafficking Case

A convicted child sex trafficker has accused the FBI of doctoring evidence in his case, which is under appeal.

Keith Raniere, the former leader and founder of NXIVM, was sentenced to 120 years in October 2020 after a federal jury found him guilty of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and racketeering. Raniere’s alleged crimes have been the subject of multiple documentaries, including HBO’s August 2020 series, The Vow.

An appeal hearing is set for May 3 for Raniere, but the defendant said on April 28 that he has come into possession of evidence that could overturn his entire case. According to Raniere, the FBI manipulated digital photos to make it appear as if he had photographed a female under the age of 18.

“Specifically, there is evidence that computer data related to digital photographs taken of a nude female were materially altered to make it appear that these photographs were taken in 2005,” Raniere’s motion said. “The government used the year 2005 to establish the female as being under the age of eighteen, making the photographs contraband.”

Raniere’s motion contains sworn statements from three digital forensic experts, including one who worked for the FBI for 20 years.

Retired FBI special agent Richard Kiper, who was a computer forensic examiner for the bureau from 1999 to 2019, said in his sworn statement that he believes there was evidence tampering in Raniere’s case.

“In my 20 years serving as an FBI agent, I have never observed or claimed that an FBI employee tampered with evidence, digital or otherwise. But in this case, I strongly believe the multiple, intentional alterations to the digital information I have discovered constitute evidence manipulation,” Kiper said.

“My analysis demonstrates that some of these alterations definitely took place while the devices were in the custody of the FBI. Therefore, in the absence of any other plausible explanation, it is my expert opinion that the FBI must have been involved in this evidence tampering.”

Among his findings, says Kiper, are dates, file names, and timestamps of digital photos being altered while in FBI possession.  He also said photos were manipulated to appear as though they came from Raniere’s computer hard drive when they were actually placed there manually.

In addition, Raniere’s motion included sworn statements from Steven Abrams, an attorney and retired digital forensics expert, and computer scientist Wayne Norris.

They agreed with Kiper’s findings.

“Dr. Kiper’s third finding is that the filesystem access data metadata was overwritten on Sept. 19, 2018. I agree. This sort of mishandling of digital evidence is common among lay people. I regularly observe attorneys mishandle their client’s evidence produced in discovery in this manner, but this sort of mishandling of evidence is unexpected from the FBI,” said Abrams.

“This is either a rookie mistake or a purposeful act of digital sabotage.”

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‘I’m The Return of Christ’: Alleged Polygamist Cult Leader Hit With Charges in Georgia

The leader of an alleged polygamist cult who often refers to himself as “3God” and “Nature Boy” is facing several charges this week, including false imprisonment and rape.

Eligio Bishop, the 40-year-old leader of the group Carbon Nation, was arrested this week on five charges on April 14—including rape, false imprisonment, and sending sexually explicit electronic transmissions without consent, the Dekalb County Police Department said. The arrest comes after a Wednesday night raid at his Georgia home, which included dozens of officers and a tactical team, according to WSB-TV.

He is currently being held at DeKalb County jail after Magistrate Judge Abbi Taylor denied his bail during a Friday court appearance, the severity of his alleged crimes. While authorities have not provided details into what led to the charges, police did confirm a “special victims unit investigation” into Bishop has been ongoing since March 30 after they received a complaint against him. The Wednesday raid, police said, included search and arrest warrants.

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Sarah Lawrence ‘sex cult’ leader Larry Ray allegedly tortured victim in hotel for hours

Accused Sarah Lawrence sex-cult leader Larry Ray allegedly tortured one of his victims for hours, suffocating her with a plastic bag after binding her to a hotel chair — and at one point stopped to have burgers and fries with his top lieutenant during the abuse, a witness testified Thursday. 

The alleged victim, Claudia Drury, 31, detailed the horrific, seven-hour torture session under questioning by a federal prosecutor at Ray’s racketeering and sex-trafficking trial in Manhattan federal court. 

Drury said Ray became enraged at her in October 2018 after she told one of her “main clients,” whom she identified as a man named Stuart Piltch, that Ray published his name on a website associated with her work as a prostitute. 

When he found out Drury told Piltch about the website, Ray and his alleged accomplice, Isabella Pollok, came to the Gregory Hotel in Midtown, where she was living and meeting clients, and began to torture her, she told jurors. 

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NYC’s elite are in a tizzy after Justice Department ‘inadvertently’ publishes list of 121 ‘clients’ – including lawyers, businessmen, and socialites – who solicited Sarah Lawrence ‘sex cult victim’ who was forced into prostitution

New York’s business elite was left shaking in its boots Tuesday after a list of alleged clients of the student prostitute in the Sarah Lawrence ‘sex cult’ case was inadvertently published online.

The list, which was entered into evidence under seal in the ongoing trial of accused cult leader Larry Ray, includes lawyers and businessmen and socialites throughout the Tri-state area.

DailyMail.com acquired a copy of the list of 121 names which was taken down nearly as fast as it was put up.

A top executive at The Gap clothing firm and her husband was one of two married couples included. A former New York State Supreme Court judge is also named.

Another alleged client is a painter who has studios in Manhattan’s East Village and in Italy. A third is an architect, famous for designing college and university buildings. 

An investment executive who was also in pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous little black book of contacts is also listed.  

Other names include a hedge fund manager who has donated millions to charity and has his name on a museum building in New York, a Washington DC, lobbyist who has worked for a foreign resistance movement and an international diamond dealer. 

Also included is an executive at the Metropolitan Transit Authority, an account executive at Amazon and a veteran travel writer. 

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Inside dangerous ‘Nullo’ craze where sick ‘cutters’ castrate wannabe eunuchs on film and keep privates in freezer to EAT

WHEN Japanese artist Mao Sugiyama had his privates sliced off and served to diners for £160 a head, he became the highest profile member of a small but growing band of ‘nullos’.

The bizarre act is thought to have inspired members of a nullos movement arrested this week in North London under suspicion of carrying out illegal castrations and streaming the ops online.

The seven men, between the ages of 30 and 60, allegedly carried out amputations in a basement flat in Finsbury Park and filmed the procedures for a pay-per-view channel promoted on Twitter. 

The group’s leader, who was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm, was said to call himself the Eunuch Maker.

It’s a shocking example of a global subculture which is growing in popularity, and encouraging amateur surgeons – known as cutters – to carry out illegal operations, often with disastrous results.

In some extreme cases, Nullos – short for genital nullification or voluntary eunuchs – have even shown cannibalistic tendencies, keeping the lopped off body parts in the freezer to eat.

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