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FOX 13 Investigates: Website associated with Chad Daybell and his followers shuts down

Posted at 11:20 AM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 19:31:45-04

An internet message board associated with Chad Daybell and his followers has been shut down out of fear that its members could be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Users of the website Pathway to Zion say they are now being discouraged from talking publicly about their controversial religious beliefs with members of their own church.

The forum was run by a man named Hector Sosa, Jr., one of the authors who wrote books through Chad Daybell's publishing company.

Throughout the past three months, FOX 13 has spoken to a number of people who, in some form, have held beliefs similar to those of Chad Daybell.

Like Chad Daybell, Sosa claims to be able to receive visions from God. He has publicly defended Chad Daybell from accusations related to the suspicious death of his wife and the disappearance of his two stepchildren in Idaho.

In a message leaked to FOX 13 by multiple members of Pathway to Zion, Sosa discussed his reasons for shutting down the website.

"A few days ago I was given a warning about our community," Sosa wrote. "It took a few days of prayer and discussion to get over the shock. The drama with Chad and Lori has emboldened unscrupulous local church leaders across the United States to use memberships to different communities as a sign of apostasy. PTZ membership will be used as grounds for ex-communication... The only responsible way to deal with this is to close the community and destroy the assets that belong to this community."

Sosa warned members to avoid discussing "non-mainstream topics in public" for their own protection.

He specifically mentioned "Energy Healing" and "Multiple Mortal Probations" as being outside of "the current church's gospel diaspora."

"If you do choose to ignore this advice, please note that you will look like a nail that needs hammering to the hammers that are looking for anything out of place... discuss these things in public at your own peril... It is not worth it to lose your temple recommend by trying to defend out of mainstream ideas or teachings. At this point in time, having access to the temple is greater than anything else."

Before the website was deleted, Sosa uploaded 45 files onto a public Dropbox account for anyone to download.

Many of the files seem to be related to preparations for the end of the world.

Sosa is one of the authors who has written books through Chad Daybell's publishing company. pic.twitter.com/IhBt40GDkW

— Adam Herbets (@AdamHerbets) March 7, 2020

One of the members of Pathway to Zion, who we will call “Jim,” told FOX 13 he felt like the website had taken a dark turn since its creation. He said not all members of Pathway to Zion necessarily had the same beliefs.

Jim asked to remain anonymous out of fear for his safety and reputation.

"I kind of became a part of that community for some time. Anybody can get caught up into that," the man said. "I don't think anything good is coming from these forums... It seems like they're taking bits and pieces of LDS doctrine. They're twisting it."

Julie Rowe, another author who has published books through Chad Daybell's company, defended the idea of multiple mortal probations.

She said the belief is different from the idea of reincarnation.

"The people that started (Pathway to Zion) started it for Chad and I and other dreamers and visionaries who were being persecuted," Rowe said. "I don’t want to identify who I’ve been necessarily. I can just say that I’ve had many lives on this planet… The true doctrine is past lives. I've never been a butterfly or caterpillar. I've never been a dog. I am always a human. I am always female."

Unlike Sosa, Rowe has publicly stated she no longer feels comfortable supporting Chad Daybell, who also believed in multiple mortal probations. Rowe said she and Chad Daybell have discussed their previous lives on other planets without going into too much detail.

"Well, he told me he was James the Less… I’ve never told him how many planets I’ve been on. I don’t even know how many planets I’ve been on. I don’t care about that. I’m trying to get through this life," Rowe said. "I don’t believe he was making it up. I believe he had deceiving spirits talking to him."

James the Less, also known as “James the Just” or “James the brother of Jesus” was one of the Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus in the Bible.

Rowe was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2019, partly because of her willingness to discuss her belief in multiple mortal probations.

“Do you think Chad has been excommunicated?” FOX 13 reporter Adam Herbets asked.

“He has not been yet, but I’m sure he will be,” Rowe said. “Chad and Lori think that they are a part of the Davidic Presidency. Chad thinks he’s a Davidic President or Davidic Servant that’s going to help translate people and start the Church of the Firstborn and all this stuff, and that is an absolute deception. That’s a lie.”

Rowe said she is not sure whether Sosa is aware of Chad Daybell’s reason for declining to tell authorities where his two missing stepchildren are.

“I know, as of a month ago, (Sosa) was still talking to Chad,” Rowe said. “Hector and I are casual friends. We talk about things we see… He’s not happy with me that I’ve spoken out.”

Sosa has declined FOX 13’s request for comment.

“I feel like he was scared,” Jim said. “It still seems like he’s defending Chad… Why have they explained it to you but nobody else? Why won’t they say anything to the media? Why won’t they tell us where the kids are? … There’s dark entities in play here and/or a mixture of mental health issues. It could be one or the other or both.

The grandparents of Joshua “JJ” Vallow tell FOX 13 they firmly believe Lori Vallow’s marriage to Chad Daybell, along with her seemingly newfound religious beliefs, have something to do with the disappearance of her two children.

“I think it has everything to do with it,” said Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandfather. “I haven’t had anybody explain it to me to the point where I’m satisfied with what I’ve heard. It really doesn’t make sense… Look, if you want to worship a watermelon? Go ahead. I don’t care. Just don’t do this to children.”

A spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told FOX 13 they have no comment on the message board, its members, or the beliefs that may have been discussed.

If you have any information related to the whereabouts of Joshua Vallow (7) or Tylee Ryan (17), please call the Rexburg Police Department or Federal Bureau of Investigations.

NOTE: The video originally associated with this story showed an incorrect photo of Hector Sosa, Jr.