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On Easter Sunday 1935, when he was 15, Rev. Moon would later say, he was praying on a Korean mountaintop when Jesus Christ appeared to him and asked him to fulfill his life’s work. Rev. Moon refused twice, but when Jesus asked him a third time to accept the mission, the teenager promised, “I will do it.”

For nine years, he studied, prayed and fasted to understand his mission. In 1943, he married his first wife, Seon-Gil Choi, and worked as an electrical engineer to support their son. But in 1946, he suddenly left his home to go to Pyongyang, North Korea, where Christianity and communism were colliding. He later said he was heeding God’s call.

There, he established himself as a spiritual leader, but was arrested after Christian clergy complained to police and accused him of being a spy from the South. During one arrest, he was tortured and left for dead outside the prison. His followers nursed him back to health.

In 1948, the same year he was expelled by the Presbyterians, Rev. Moon was arrested again by North Korean communists and imprisoned in the Heungnam labor camp.

Life expectancy in the camp was only a few months, but Rev. Moon persevered until 1950, when United Nations forces, under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, liberated the camp in October, on the eve of his scheduled execution. In the early 1980s, Rev. Moon financed the feature film “Inchon” to honor the U.S. war hero, who was played by Laurence Olivier.

In December 1950, Rev. Moon walked 500 miles south to Pusan, South Korea, where he and a small group of followers built a church from discarded U.S. military supply crates.

‘Divine Principle’

It was in Pusan where Rev. Moon committed his theology to writing, in a volume called “Wolli Wonbon,” or the “Divine Principle.” In that volume, based on years of intense biblical study, he explains that God, as the Original Parent of all mankind, has been grieving for His lost children since the Fall of Man.

The Divine Principle further explains the events of the Fall, the existence of evil, and how God has been working through human history to reclaim heaven and earth through a formula called the providence of restoration. God’s followers are called to live lives of true love, public service and work to bring peace among religions.

In 1953, Rev. Moon moved to Seoul where, the next year, he registered his church as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity — generally known as the Unification Church. By 1957, Unification churches were established in 30 Korean cities and towns. In 1958, the church’s first missionary went to Japan; in 1959, the first Unificationist missionaries arrived in America. He later sent missionaries to every country in the world.

Rev. Moon’s marriage to Seon-Gil Choi ended in 1958 after she filed for divorce.

In 1960, Rev. Moon married Hak Ja Han. The couple eventually had 14 children, and are revered by church members as the “True Parents.”

Beginning in 1960, Rev. Moon matched and married his earliest followers with their consent. The ceremonies, which the faithful believe release them from the bondage of original sin, grew to include 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden in 1982. Over the years, these “blessing ceremonies,” the most recent occurring in March, have involved millions of couples either in stadiums or via satellite.

Rev. Moon first traveled to the United States in 1965 for a five-month visit, during which he toured the country and spent three months in the Washington home of Bo Hi Pak, a South Korean diplomat and Unification Church member. Rev. Moon returned to the U.S. in 1969 and, in 1971, moved the missionary headquarters of his church to Westchester County, N.Y.

In 1972, Rev. Moon began a seven-city U.S. evangelical tour with a “Day of Hope Rally” at New York City’s Lincoln Center. He continued his public appearances over the next two years, speaking on the theme of “Christianity in Crisis,” including a Sept. 18, 1974, event at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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