Leonard Jones

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Leonard "Live-Forever" Jones
Live Forever Jones answering Ben Hardin - court illo.png
Court room illustration of "Live Forever" Jones (seated) answering the prosecutor, Ben Hardin.
Born 3 July 1797(1797-07-03) [1]
Henderson County, Virginia [2]
Died 30 August 1868 (71) [3]
Louisville, Kentucky
Nationality American
Affiliations Endless Life Society
Known for Claims to physical immortality

Leonard Jones (July 3, 1797 - August 30, 1868), oft styled as "Live-Forever" Jones, was an American political activist and religious evangelist for a theology of physical immortality through moral living.

Background

Leonard Jones was described by Samuel Howard Ford, in "Ford's Christian Repository and Home Circle" (1889), as: "a large, robust man; [with] sandy hair [that] fell on his broad shoulders; his beard was the longest one I ever saw; it came down to his knees; he had a rich voice and when he spoke in public he would lean on the chair or desk before him and lift his feet into the air with a movement the most grotesque. From a pathetic reference to the dear dead who need not have died he would make one of these frog-leaps, which would convulse the crowd with laughter."[4] Rev. J.W. Cunningham further detailed Jones's oratory style: "Religiously, he was demonstrative if allowed so to be, and politically, as a speaker he was 'uproarious.' He roared like one possessed; he jumped up and down, stamped, kicked, clapped, thumped, and with his heavy cane whacked with vigor the stand before him."[1]

Prior to his public life and religious ministry of physical immortality, Jones was, according to the account of Cunningham, a land speculator who "amassed a considerable fortune", and became engaged to "a lady of high social position in Kentucky."[1] However, the marriage was not to be, and soon after the engagement was ended, Jones began a string of religious conversions.

Moving from congregration to congregation over a span of a decade, Jones spent time with the United Brethren, the Methodists, and the Shakers, the latter to whom he granted a lot of five thousand acres in Illinois, having spent six and a half years with them. After leaving the Shakers, he was baptised as a Mormon, but abandoned it too after "not receiving the gift of tongue."[1]

After these many years of searchings and conversions, Jones at last found the religious calling he was to herald the remainder of his days in the preachings of an itinerant minister called Alexander McDaniel, a "strange genius", who taught that "man by faith can live forever".[1] Together, the pair resolved that the area of Columbus, Kentucky would be the new capital of their "live-forever faith", mapping out a city plan with all the amenities a proper urban centre could require, with the exception of cemeteries and funeral parlors, rendered unnecessary by their teachings.[3]

As it would turn out, McDaniel died in Ohio soon thereafter, leaving Jones to carry on the work alone.

In the decades that followed, Jones made a name for himself as an eccentric in Kentucky and the surrounding states, travelling around the country in order to spread the word of his "live-forever" religion and to promote himself as a political candidate (on the "High Moral" ticket) in a number of ballot races, including the U.S. Presidency.

In the end, after all his effort to remain of a high moral state and to live forever, Leonard Jones was reported to have passed away in his sleep on August 30, 1868 following his being admitted to the hospital at Louisville, Kentucky.

"Death is nothing but unbelief"

"Look him straight in the eye and he will cower and sneak away like a whipped cur."

Live-Forever Jones preached that through a strictly moral life of prayer, poverty, and fasting - going so far as to denounce food as "moral poison" - that life could be held onto eternally in this world. He resolved that sickness and death were the consequence of moral lapses, and could only be overcome by virtuous living, rejecting medical treatment for any illness that befell him, asking instead for prayers.

Reports of his life tell that Jones was deeply convinced in these beliefs, and that he always sought to live up to his doctrines as much as he was able. He was said to have given away donations of food and money soon after receiving them, passing them along to those he considered more in need, and, in one episode, Jones gave away a horse and accompaniments that had been gifted to him to a bare-footed beggar he happened on.[5]

In furtherance of the cause of the poor and the course of justice, Jones paid close attention to the police courts, frequently attending criminal trials and raising his voice whenever he perceived an injustice being done to any parties (for which trouble, several times, he was jailed for contempt).[5]

Your High Moral Candidate

  • Ran for Congress many times in different counties, particularly in Kentucky.
  • Opposed Taylor for President, declared that Taylor's death was God's will for his assuming Jones's post.
  • Opposed Buchanan for President, was not registered, and declared the poll illegal.
  • Opposed Lincoln for President, declared that Lincoln's assassination was retributive and divine justice.

Resources

References