Young Jin (Phillip) Moon, son of Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, fell to his death from the seventeenth floor of a Reno, Nevada, hotel October 27.

Young Jin's death, ruled a suicide in preliminary police reports, has created a new round of turmoil for church members. The church experienced intense media attention last year after the release of Nansook Hong's In the Shadow of the Moons, an expose about her former marriage to Moon's oldest son, Hyo Jin Moon.

Young Jin, born in 1978, was in Nevada to pursue a career in hotel management.

Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church in 1954, told church members in a sermon November 14 that his son's death was a "providential" accident and definitely not a suicide.

Moon dispatched three top aides to Nevada to investigate his son's death and prepare the body for burial in Reno. After Moon concluded that his son did not commit suicide, the casket was exhumed and a formal Unification funeral was held in Seoul on November 10.

Church official Phillip Schanker told CT that the Korean funeral provided "a joyful and spirited sendoff" for Young Jin. Schanker says that Young Jin was "very studious and quiet" and that his death was an "offering to God."

Rumors have circulated among Unificationists that evil spirits pushed Young Jin off the balcony. Church members also have spoken of supernatural events during Young Jin's Nevada burial and suggestions from church critics that his death is creating a schism.

But Schanker, who has been with the church since 1972, says there are no signs of internal revolt, and allegations about a demonic murder or miracles at the graveside are "absolute speculation." Schanker confirms reports that Young Jin's two-year marriage was in trouble, but he says Young Jin showed no signs of depression.

Moon says God allowed his son to die as a "sacrifice" so that Satan could not make a direct attack on the True Parents [the Unification term for Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han].

Donna Collins, a prominent ex-member, told CT that "it is impossible to reconcile" Unification ideals about Moon and his wife "with the neglect of their own children." She says that "the Unification path is rife with bodies" and that "the majority of the kids I grew up with in the movement were suicidal."

J. Gordon Melton, one of America's leading scholars of new religions, says that "the tragic death of Young Jin, in light of other recent revelations about the less than ideal conditions in Rev. Moon's own family, challenges the seriousness of the Unification Church's call for a family-oriented program to reform society."

Related Elsewhere

See earlier Christianity Today coverage of the Unification Church:

"Venezuela Restricts Unification Church" (Nov. 17, 1997)

"Moon Struck | Church founder's ex-daughter-in-law pens grim tome about life on the inside." (Nov. 16, 1998)

"Moon-Related Funds Filter to Evangelicals" (Feb. 9, 1998)

"Government Recognition Demanded" (Mar. 2, 1998)

See coverage of the death in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The X-Moonies site pretty much accuses the Unification Church of murdering Young Jin.

See also a recent article in the New York Times, "Suspicion Follows Rev. Moon to South America."