Apr 18, 2012

'God wouldn't stand it any longer'

Transcript from the 1903 trial of Frank Sandford, founder and authoritarian leader of a proto-pentecostal sect in Maine, on charges of manslaughter, following the death of a child during a forced 36-hour fast, where adults, children, babies, sick people, and even animals were disallowed all food and water.

That same year, Sandford required followers to sign a scroll declaring him to be "the prophet-prince-priest who is to prepare the Kingdom for the Christ ... the man who as a prophet is called in the Bible 'Elijah,' and as a prince is called 'David,' and as a priest is called 'Tsemach,' or 'The Branch.'"

The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the charge of manslaughter. 

Prosecuting Attorney: Mr. Harriman. what is your full name?
Nathan Harriman: Nathan Harding Harriman.
Q. Where do you reside now?
A. Roxbury, Mass.
Q. Were you at one time associated with Mr. Sandford in the Shiloh movement?
A. I was.
Q. For how long a time?
A. Three years lacking exactly a month--perhaps a difference of one day. That is. I arrived at Shiloh the 22nd of June, 1900, and I left the party in Jerusalem the 2lst of May, 1903.
Q. Now during all that time were you connected with him in the management of the institution?
A. Well, I wouldn't say management. I was connected with him all that time as a member of the institution with the exception of two brief times.
Q. And what were those two times?
A. I was disfellowshipped by the school on one occasion for twenty-five hours, and some nearly a year later in Liverpool, England, Mr. Sandford disfellowshipped me from the school and the Church and the movement, and the Jerusalem party. With the exception of being restored to the school and the Church some fourteen or fifteen days later, I remained disfellowshipped to the end. That is to say, I was restored to the Jerusalem party in September of 1902, but I was never restored to the ministry.
Q. What was the length you say of this second period that you were disfellowshipped?
A. Well, I don't remember just what, but I think it was the first or second day of the period of fifteen days, most of which I fasted.
Q. What was the occasion of that?
A. Rebellion.

Defense Attorney: I object to the details of this man's history.
THE COURT: What is the nature of the objection?
Defense Attorney: It is immaterial and irrelevant.
THE COURT: I don't quite understand. Why?
Defense Attorney: The history -- this man's own personal history.
THE COURT: No, the history of Mr. Sandford's relation to the movement.
Defense Attorney: I don't understand that the whole history of this matter is to be gone into.
THE COURT: Are there any written creeds or written rules, by-laws, or anything of that sort relating to the movement or community, do you understand?
Defense Attorney: No. I don't know that there are.
THE COURT: Then how can it be shown what Mr. Sandford's relations were except by his conduct--what he said and did? Defense Attorney: I understand the witnesses here have stated repeatedly what Mr. Sandford's relations were generally. As to the particular fact--the general fact-I have no objection. I object to introducing into this case other details which can only be a matter of inference, can only aid in the decision as matters of inference. If Mr. Skelton wishes to take the position that Mr. Sandford was the head of the institution, with general authority over the institution, we don't expect to controvert that at all. I have not objected to the questions asked, because I don't care to go into the matter.
THE COURT: I think it is competent to show the extent and character of the control, if any, which he exercised over the community by specific instances, if there are such. I don't know to what particular point the question objected to was directed. He stated he was disfellowshipped for fourteen or fifteen days. Defense Attorney: I propose to show the nature of the power which he assumed and exercised over the members of the community.
THE COURT: You may show it.
Prosecuting Attorney: Now. Mr. Harriman, what was the occasion of your being disfellowshipped?
Defense Attorney: I object.
THE COURT: Admitted, subjection to objection.
Harriman. I was declared in rebellion.
Q. For what?
A. For controversy that arose between Mr. Sandford and myself with reference to a passage of Scripture. He asked me a question, "was I contented." quoting a passage of Scripture. I told him I was contented as I understood the Scripture to mean, and he refused to accept that reply, and asked me again if I was contented. I started to reply in the same way, and he spoke to me and asked me the third time, and again I started to reply and he refused to talk any more, and called to prayer. We had some strong words over my rebellious condition. then we went to our rooms, and he advised me to get it down into my soul the dangerous condition I was in, and came to me later -- I should say three hours later -- and renewed the conversation by telling me that it was the same old trouble of having a reasoning head, and that I would not accept authority, and he was tired of it, and went off to fast himself. I went to my meals determined that I was not going to have any quarrel if I could help it, for I had stated the last quarrel I had-
THE COURT: Simply tell what took place without giving reasons.
A. I went to my meals late in the day--to dinner-and in the evening went to bed, and at about two in the morning I should say he came to the room and woke me up, and I found that Mr. Whittaker, my bedfellow, hadn't been to bed with me, and learned afterwards that they were all fasting, and were ordered to the upper room--a very severe, serious state of affairs--and going to have it straightened out. And in the upper room I was asked what I had to say for myself.
THE COURT: By whom?
A. By Mr. Sandford. And I lost control of my patience and told him that i was no use to say anything for myself, for my case was prejudged already. At that he ordered the company to leave me, and gave me a message as he left, indicating that God had cast me off.
Q. What was the message?
THE COURT: What did he say?
A. He said God had spoken the words "Laying all along the ground," that it meant the case of Saul just before he committed suicide. He was in rebellion against David. He was David and I was Saul, and left me in the upper room. And the next day, or the next but one-that is where my memory is not clear-I was called down and disfellowshipped along these grounds, and declared I was no longer a minister, and then I started to ask-
THE COURT: Never mind what you did.
Q. Did he give you any further orders or instructions?
A. Yes, to wait on God. Sent me back to the upper room to fast, and wait on God until I should thoroughly repent of my rebellion there. This was the seventh time I had rebelled.
Q. This is what he said.
A. Yes, and in his opinion God wouldn't stand it any longer; that I had either got to repent to the finger tips of my being and get through with that, or else God would strike me dead.