Knights of the Crystal Blade

Mormon fundamentalists who married their own preschool-aged daughters


"My marriage was the right thing to do. If I'm a sex offender for what I've done. If I go to the other side, I'll be in good company with all those other sex offenders I've read about in the scriptures." - John Alvin Coltharp (image via KUTV)

In the small town of Lund, Utah, a shocking case unfolded involving John Alvin Coltharp and Samuel Warren Shaffer, leaders of a doomsday cult known as the "Knights of the Crystal Blade." This fundamentalist group, which met on Facebook and believed in apocalyptic prophecies, would come under intense scrutiny for heinous crimes against children, leading to a dramatic police raid and subsequent legal battles that gripped the nation.

The Knights of the Crystal Blade, a tiny apocalyptic group, was formed by John Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer. These self-proclaimed prophets, both in their mid-thirties, believed in the imminent end of the world and a forthcoming "Muslim invasion" of the United States. The group, characterized as a "fundamentalist group for Millennials," had a handful of members and an online presence through social media and a website where they propagated their extremist beliefs.

Coltharp, a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had been expelled from the church due to his radical views. He believed in preparing for the apocalypse and advocated for child marriage, stating that girls were ready for marriage by age 12. His extremist beliefs led to a rift in his family, ultimately resulting in his divorce.

In September 2017, the situation escalated when Coltharp kidnapped his four children from their mother, Micha Soble, who had legal custody. He took them nearly 200 miles to a remote compound near Lund, Utah, intending to indoctrinate them into the cult. This action prompted an Amber Alert in December after authorities learned of the children's whereabouts and the men's intentions.

In a dramatic rescue, authorities raided the compound near Lund. They found Coltharp's sons with their grandparents in a makeshift residence, while his daughters, aged 8 and 4, were discovered in dire conditions. The girls were hidden in 50-gallon water barrels in freezing temperatures, a situation that could have been fatal.

Simultaneously, Shaffer’s daughters were found in a decrepit mobile home, showing signs of severe neglect. All children were rescued and received necessary medical attention.

Investigations revealed that both men had "married" each other's daughters. Coltharp was betrothed to Shaffer's 7-year-old daughter, while Shaffer had "married" Coltharp's 8-year-old daughter. They had even gone to the extent of physically inspecting the girls to validate their virginity. This revelation, along with the discovery of child pornography and a sinister plan to murder one of Coltharp's sons, whom they believed to be a demon, painted a harrowing picture of the cult's activities.

Coltharp and Shaffer faced numerous charges, including kidnapping, bigamy, child abuse, and child sexual abuse. Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy, and Shaffer to child rape and child abuse. Both received sentences of 26 years to life in prison.

During the trials, their delusions became evident. Coltharp, unapologetic, claimed he was the reincarnation of biblical prophets and spoke of impending world changes. Shaffer, expressing some regret, still held on to his belief that his actions were divinely sanctioned.

Religion: Mormon

Denomination: Fundamentalism

Founders: Samuel Shaffer and John Alvin Coltharp

Founded: 2010s

Location: Lund, Utah, USA

Size: under 10

Offshoot of: The Church of the Living Messiah

Websites: (archive); (archive)

Other info: