|Born||22 August 1914|
|Died||6 August 1996(aged 81)|
|Education||Doctorate in natural medicine and chiropractic|
|Known for||Founder of Baha'is Under the Provisions of the Covenant|
Leland Jensen (22 August 1914 – 6 August 1996) was the founder of a Bahá'í sect called the Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant (BUPC). Jensen initially supported the claim of Mason Remey to be the successor to Shoghi Effendi in 1960, resulting in his excommunication from the mainstream Bahá'í community. Jensen went on to propagate his own teachings among a group of followers that observers say probably never exceeded 200, but declined in size significantly from 1990-1996. During his lifetime adherents were mostly concentrated in Montana, with smaller groups in other US states.
Jensen gained national attention when on April 26, 1980 he led a group of followers into fallout shelters, expecting an apocalyptic nuclear holocaust. He went on to predict that Halley's Comet would enter earth's orbit on April 29, 1986, and collide with the earth exactly one year later. With Jensen's approval, in the early 1990s his companion Neal Chase made a total of 18 disconfirmed prophecies that pertained to small-scale disasters that he claimed would lead step-by-step towards the Apocalypse, as well as dates for a nuclear attack on New York City by middle Eastern terrorists.
Jensen was a third generation Bahá'í on his mother's side. He and his wife, Opal, received doctorates in natural medicine, becoming chiropractic doctors. They attended the School of Drugless Physicians and graduated in 1944. Opal was the valedictorian and Jensen graduated with distinction (cum laude).
After they graduated, and after practicing for a while, they moved to St. Louis. In 1953 Shoghi Effendi launched the Ten Year Crusade, which aimed at bringing the message of Bahá'u'lláh to the entire world. Jensen and his wife gave up their practice and went to two tiny islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. The first island was the French island of Réunion, which practiced Catholicism as the State Religion. He then stayed six months in Mauritius. Jensen and his wife were the first Bahá'ís to visit these islands, and therefore received the title of Knights of Bahá'u'lláh. More than 200 Bahá'ís received the title after moving to areas designated by Shoghi Effendi. His wife Opal died in 1990.
When Shoghi Effendi died in 1957 there were no eligible appointees who met the required conditions for successorship, and he died without having appointed a successor. Mason Remey was among the nine Hands of the Cause elected as an interim authority until the election of the first Universal House of Justice in 1963. However, in 1960 Remey declared himself to be the successor of Shoghi Effendi, and expected the allegiance of the world's Bahá'ís. Subsequently, he and his followers were unanimously declared Covenant breakers by the Hands. They reasoned that he lacked a formal appointment from Shoghi Effendi, and that the office was scripturally restricted to male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh. Almost the whole Bahá'í world rejected his claim, but he gained the support of a small but widespread group of Bahá'ís. Jensen was among these first supporters of Remey. In 1964 he moved to Missoula, Montana with his wife where they opened a chiropractic clinic.
In 1969 Jensen was convicted of "a lewd and lascivious act" for sexually molesting a 15-year-old female patient, and served four years of a twenty-year sentence in the Montana State Prison. He claimed to be wrongly convicted, and later taught his followers that his prison stay was instrumental towards fulfilling prophecy. It was in prison that Jensen claimed to have a revelation, and converted several dozen inmates to his idea of being the "Establisher" of the Bahá'í Faith, stemming from his belief that the majority of Bahá'ís had followed the wrong leadership and that he was chosen to re-establish a divinely sanctioned order.
He recruited many followers in prison, and after his parole in 1973 he founded the BUPC. By 1979, his apocalyptic prophecy was receiving national press coverage and he had attracted followers in Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas.
Between 1979 and 1995 Jensen, and his companion Neal Chase, made twenty specific predictions centering nuclear attacks, worldwide catastrophes, and some smaller scale disasters. Jensen himself set two of the dates, while Chase set the other 18. Between 1980 and 1996, four researchers took part in group activities and even stayed the night in three BUPC fallout shelters in 1980.
In 1979, approximately 6 years after being released from prison, Jensen began teaching his followers that on April 29, 1980 a nuclear holocaust would kill a third of the world's population, and that over the next twenty years, the planet would be ravaged until in the year 2000 "God's Kingdom" would be established and a thousand years of peace would follow. On the fateful night, Jensen led a group of followers into fallout shelters in Missoula, Montana.
The disconfirmed prophecy resulted in Jensen losing several contingents of adherents, and his response was that he was right all along. Over the following years Jensen used several types of explanations, as noted by researcher Robert Balch,
- The prediction was fulfilled spiritually rather than physically.
- The prophecy was fulfilled physically, but not in the manner expected.
- The date was off because of a miscalculation.
- The date was a prediction, not a prophecy.
- The leaders had a moral responsibility to warn the public despite the date's uncertainty.
- God had given the world a reprieve.
- The prediction had been a test of members' faith.
Jensen's followers had made substantial commitments to the prediction, building shelters, writing letters to government agencies and newspapers, and distributed thousands of leaflets urging fellow Missoulians to build fall-out shelters. To them the disconfirmation was "painfully obvious", and researchers used them as a case study in cognitive dissonance.
On the day after Jensen's failed prophecy, the local newspaper of Missoula, Montana, the Missoulian, published the following on April 30, 1980:
- "Based on his interpretations of the Bible and on measurements of the Great Pyramid of Kuhfu in Giza, Egypt, Jensen said, ‘either a provocative act that will escalate into World War III, or World War III itself,’ was to occur at 5:55 p.m. MDT Tuesday [4/29/80]." (Missoulian, Vol. 107 No. 311 April 30, 1980)
When asked by a UPI reporter Jensen did not express concern that the prediction might not come true, remarking "There will be a nuclear holocaust some day."
After the 1980 event, Jensen introduced the idea that the seven-year Tribulation had begun on the date of his prediction of a nuclear holocaust, and thus committed himself to another event happening on the same date in 1987. In 1985 he made the prediction that Halley's Comet would enter Earth's orbit on April 29, 1986, and collide with the Earth exactly one year later. In the interim year, he taught that the comet would break apart, pelt the Earth with debris, and produce massive earthquakes. The new prophecy rekindled his followers, who became excited with the new idea.
As opposed to the first prediction, this time his followers made very little commitments to the prophecy, and began making disclaimers even before the 1986 event. When the members gathered on the night before the comet was supposed to enter Earth's orbit, nobody mentioned the comet. Jensen later said that the massive earthquakes were fulfilled by a "spiritual earthquake" when one of his important followers defected and left him.
By the 1990s one of Jensen's students had become a protoge and began making his own prophecies with Jensen's approval. Throughout the 1990s Neal Chase made a total of 18 predictions which pertained to small-scale disasters that he claimed would lead step-by-step towards apocalypse, as well as dates for a nuclear attack on New York City by middle Eastern terrorists. He based these predictions on Biblical prophecies, evidence from Hopi prophecies, planetary conjunctions, dreams, numerological coincidences, Nostradamus, and psychics. After each failed prediction, the BUPC adherents carried on as usual, giving disclaimers to future predictions, and focusing on Jensen's other teachings.
Death and legacy
Jensen taught that the leadership of the mainstream Bahá'í community had gone astray, and that Mason Remey was the next rightful heir to leadership after Shoghi Effendi. Jensen considered himself restoring the rightful leadership, which he believed had been passed to Remey's adopted son Pepe Remey. Pepe denied this claim and refused association with Jensen's group, thus leaving Jensen's followers with no clear scripturally sanctioned leadership.
Jensen's followers consisted of roughly 150 people leading up to 1980, but declined in size significantly following the disconfirmed prophecy, with almost all of the believers outside of Montana eventually rejecting Jensen's teachings. In 1994 a membership phone list showed 66 members in Missoula, Montana, and less than 20 in other states.
As Jensen's own chosen successor, Pepe Remey, refused to participate in his new sect and died in 1994. Jensen approached old age with disconfirmed prophecies, declining membership, and no Guardian to speak of when he died in 1996. A schism over leadership of the group in 2001 resulted in other defections and an unresolved court battle for control of funds.
Having worked in a print shop while in college, Jensen became a self-publisher. The Bahá'í Publishers Under the Provisions of the Covenant published several of his and other books. A few of his more notable books are:
- The Most Mighty Document (1979) - The 7th Letter to Pepe Remey explaining their roles, the Covenant, and Jensen's beliefs on the succession of the Guardianship.
- Jeane Dixon Was Right! (1980)
- The Seventh Angel Sounded (1994)
- Stone 2000, p. 271.
- Stone 2000, p. 280.
- Stone 2000, p. 269.
- Stone 2000, p. 277.
- Stone 2000, p. 272.
- Proof for the Establisher Fireside pg 3
- Roll of Honor Bahá'í World Crusade 1953-1963, Leland and Opal can be found in the second row, fourth column.
- Rabbani 1992, pp. 28–30.
- Smith 1999, p. 292.
- Smith 2008, p. 69.
- State v. Jensen, 153 Mont. 233, 455 P.2d 631 (Montana, 1969)
- Hyslop 2004.
- Stone 2000, p. 270.
- Shermer 1999.
- Stone 2000, p. 273.
- "Doomsday is upon us, group claims", The Florida Times-Union, 1980-04-29
- Stone 2000, p. 278.
- Balch states: "All eighteen predications in the 1990s were made by Chase…. Chase’s predictions pertained to small-scale disasters that he claimed would lead step-by step toward the apocalypse. Some of his predictions focused on upheavals caused by meteors, asteroids and comets, but most pertained to the destruction of New York City by a nuclear bomb that would be placed by Middle Eastern terrorists." (Balch et al., cf. )
- Stone 2000, p. 132.
- Stone 2000, p. 138.
- Balch, Robert; Farnsworth, Gwen; Wilkins, Sue (1983). "When the Bombs Drop: Reactions to Disconfirmed Prophecy in a Millennial Sect". Sociological Perspectives. 26 (2): 137–58. JSTOR 1389088.
- Rabbani, Ruhiyyih (ed.) (1992), The Ministry of the Custodians 1957-1963, Bahá'í World Centre, ISBN 0-85398-350-X
- Hyslop, Scott (2004), Pluralism Project, Harvard University Study of Religion
- Shermer, Michael (1999), How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, W.H. Freeman & Company, ISBN 0-7167-3561-X.
- Smith, P (1999), A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith, Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications, ISBN 1-85168-184-1
- Stone, Jon R. (ed) (2000), Expecting Armageddon, Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy, New York: Routledge, pp. 269–282, ISBN 0-415-92331-X
- "Millennial Fever" (July 17, 1997). Missoula Independent. Front page.
- “Local Bahá'í Leader dead at 81”. August 8, 1996. Missoulian p. B2.
- “Ezekiel’s Temple in Montana!” (Feb. 9, 1991). The Montana Standard. Front Page.
- "Bahá'í: Deer Lodge Sanctuary" (January 29, 1991). The Missoulian. Front page.