New amorphous molybdenum/tungsten sulfides with the general formula M.sup.n+.sub.2x/n (L.sub.6 S.sub.8)S.sub.x, where L is molybdenum or tungsten and M is a ternary metal, has been developed. Characterization of these amorphous materials by chemical and spectroscopic methods (IR, Raman, PES) shows that the (M.sub.6 S.sub.8).sup.0 cluster units are present. Vacuum thermolysis of the amorphous Na.sub.2x (Mo.sub.6 S.sub.8)S.sub.x .multidot.yMeOH first produces poorly crystalline NaMo.sub.6 S.sub.8 by disproportionation at 800.degree. C. and well-crystallized NaMo.sub.6 S.sub.8 at .gtoreq. 900.degree. C. Ion-exchange of the sodium material in methanol with soluble M.sup.2+ and M.sup.3+ salts (M=Sn, Co, Ni, Pb, La, Ho) produces the M.sup.n+.sub.2x/n (Mo.sub.6 S.sub.8)S.sub.x .multidot.yMeOH compounds. Additionally, the new reduced ternary molybdenum sulfides with the general formula M.sup.n+.sub.2x/n Mo.sub.6 S.sub.8+x (MeOH).sub.y [MMOS] (M=Sn, Co, Ni) is an effective hydrodesulfurization (HDS) catalyst both as-prepared and after a variety of pretreatment conditions. Under specified pretreatment conditions with flowing hydrogen gas, the SnMoS type catalyst can be stabilized, and while still amorphous, can be considered as "Chevrel phase-like" in that both contain Mo.sub.6 S.sub.8 cluster units. Furthermore, the small cation NiMoS and CoMoS type pretreated catalyst showed to be very active HDS catalysts with rates that exceeded the model unpromoted and cobalt-promoted MoS.sub.2 catalysts.