Tag Archives: Leaving a Cult

“Stolen Innocence” by Elissa Wall- Review

     In previous posts, I have quoted often from this book. This book is 438 pages, beginning with the struggles of a child born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FDLS). The book has three main parts that cover the years of her life up until the end of the trial of Warren Jeffs. In Part 1, she outlines her childhood days living in a polygamous family and the struggles inherent with that structure. Her family grew to include eleven brothers and twelve sisters. At one time, there were three mothers in her house- married to the same man, her father.

     The insights into her childhood including her perspectives and thoughts about Warren Jeffs, were a key to the book’s value for me. She describes her interactions with Warren Jeffs and her eventual marriage to her first cousin- Allen Steed. She fought the arranged marriage vehemently. However, in FLDS, she would be forced to follow the word of the Prophet “Uncle Rulon”, as dictated through Warrren Jeffs.  Her story of anguish at the eventual marriage was heart wrenching. The ominous “authority” that Warren Jeffs secured over the members of FLDS smelled just like the same situation at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) involving Jane Whaley. This fact made reading this book and others about FLDS, so enlightening to me.

    After the illegal marriage ceremony held at the Hot Springs Motel in Caliente, Nevada; Elissa struggles intensified. She explains in the second part of the book her struggle just to survive. She spent many nights in her mom’s company in order to avoid contact with her husband. Later, she would spend nights in her truck and that would lead to an encounter with Lamont Barlowe. Their friendship would eventually lead to a legal marriage and two children.

     Continue reading “Stolen Innocence” by Elissa Wall- Review

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Many Members of WOFF are Sincere in Their Faith

     Many members of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) are very sincere in their faith. As Cal Sayles of Faith Freedom Fund, indirectly wrote about WOFF members- “… I believe that most people who find themselves in a cult are simply, in the words of the Apostles Paul, doing their best to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12), perhaps with a greater vigor and sincerity than most.” I must agree. The regular members of WOFF are sincere and freely give their support to other members, over and over again.  

     Are these WOFF members true Christians? I will not make any blanket statements about the individual decisions of each to follow Jesus and pursue their beliefs. However, that being said; I will offer my opinion that in the WOFF environment, growth as a Christian is hindered and made difficult. Why? Growth in the ways and knowledge of God is hindered by the authority set-up at WOFF. As mentioned before, EVERY decision of any consequence (and smaller decisions) is run through Jane Whaley. The requirement to “check it out” with Jane Whaley about every decision stunts the growth and perverts the perspective of the members of WOFF. The set-up causes idolatry in the leadership and members. Jane Whaley is idolized and she longs for it to be so. Any member who desires to continue in WOFF will at some point admit and submit to the idolatry of Jane Whaley or they will be put out or leave on their own. Jane calls it “meeting the authority of God”. It is sobering to say, but much worse to live in WOFF and have to witness and submit to the idolatry, which is the life blood of WOFF.

     How much can you be helping those around you grow in Jesus, by dictating every decision and more, in their lives? Why attempt to replace the Holy Spirit that is in charge of leading the body of Christ? WOFF members are sincere believers allowing the idolatry of Jane Whaley keep them from hearing the Holy Spirit in their own hearts and leading them on to mature in Jesus. True Christians? I will not say. Stunted in their growth because of the legalistic, authoritative environment at WOFF- most definitely. It is the sad truth. At WOFF, Jane Whaley is the center of their universe and that is perversion of the true Christian faith. This set-up is not unique to WOFF, as mentioned in previous posts. Other groups like FLDS have suffered through the same idolatry of a leader and its consequences.

     Continue reading Many Members of WOFF are Sincere in Their Faith

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Resources, Answers and Hope

     The sub-title of this blog is “Resources, Answers and Hope”. In this blog are resources including book references by some very qualified authors on the subject of cults and recovery from cults. There is also a list of links to other sites that can prove a benefit to those looking for good solid material on religious cult mind control. There is such a wide range of topics in this area, it is difficult to stay focused on what could be the biggest help for the readers.

     The writings of others helped me find many answers, once I was out of WOFF. No, you would not be allowed to read the books listed on the “Books, Resource” page of this blog, if you were still a member of WOFF. Few authors in this field, had knowledge of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and Jane Whaley. However, the characteristics found in other frequently documented religious cult mind control groups existed at WOFF. That was one of the more shocking revelations upon leaving WOFF. Until I was out, I had no idea how much control I was under and how much of my life had been altered while in the group. The growth of the control is so subtle, in many cases.  The strength and depth of the control becomes great a lot of times without the member realizing how many areas are under control of Jane Whaley and other leadership. After I left the reality of the freedom of choice returned. It felt strange at first.

    Talking with former members is a help also. Reading their testimonies on other sites helped confirm my observations of what happened while at WOFF. However, several ex-members just want to forget what happened to them at WOFF and bury it all. Since I still have relatives who are in WOFF, that has been very difficult for me to do. The path to freedom still requires me to look back and remember those who are still attending WOFF. As mentioned before, I believe you can reject the methods, reject the message and not reject the members.

    Continue reading Resources, Answers and Hope

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Does a “Fear-Based” Message Really Work?

      Over the years, members of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) who stayed and were faithful would learn that there was no good reason to leave. During earlier years,  there was a WOFF Bible school and the stated emphasis was on going ” to the nations to preach and teach”… As time passed and the Bible school ended, many of the students would go to work and later get married to other members in the church and have children. The songs proclaiming the “call to the nations” would not be sung as often. The music cassette tapes produced by WOFF leadership would wear out and not be replaced. There would be talk of another music tape, but nothing came of it. Jane Whaley would coordinate and write new songs, but sending folks out was not the goal any more. Somewhere in those years, the evident purpose of WOFF changed.

     Now, don’t be confused. There was still the outreach to the prisons and to the nursing homes. Jane Whaley would share about helping local folks who called WOFF, with money for electric bills and food.  But, going “to the nations” was not preached as often. In fact, the early songs had good words. They made for good presentation when sung either inside or outside of the church.  Anyone who has attended WOFF for a special music or heard the Youth sing at a “Charles Taylor Prayer Breakfast”; has heard these songs and others.  Songs would speak of going out to fulfill the “Call of God” and going “to the nations” to preach and teach. It kept the goal in front of the members.

     Over the years, there were trips to Brazil and Africa. Jane Whaley and her leadership group would hold “Youth Seminars” in Brazil in conjunction with weddings many times. Jane was the one to perform or oversee the wedding ceremonies locally and overseas. These trips, in reality were to carry the messages that Jane and had taught in America to these churches. There would be opportunity in the youth meetings for young WOFF members to share “what God had been showing them”. For sure, the message you were allowed to speak had to “flow with what Jane had been teaching” or you were stopped. In other words, I never heard anyone get up and share about “Freedom in Christ”, being free from legalism and man-made rules. That was just not a theme in WOFF messages. If you were allowed to speak- you may be asked “what you had to share” before the meeting. For sure you had to “stay on message”. The message was the gospel and practice of the gospel- according to Jane.

     In hindsight, only three couples that I remember were “sent out”. One couple was sent back to their country in Africa. This was an outreach that still required support and WOFF has helped that couple, tremendously. Another couple was sent back to their country because of their visa issues. A third couple went back to their country and floundered, as far as I know. Nothing more was ever mentioned of them after the first few months. These are the ones I remember over 16 years of attending services. There may be more. But, for sure there was not the practice of regularly sending folks out to start churches.

     The Greenville church had the stated purpose of starting other churches in the early 90’s, when I joined. The leaders wanted to start a church in every county that touched Greenville County, SC. That meant 8 churches. That vision seemed to fade as the intensity of the Jane Whaley’s WOFF message of deliverance was taught and practiced. And it made “sense”. Why would anyone be sent out with “devils” in them? Who could ever be “free of all their devils”? Who could be trusted with the message of deliverance as Jane Whaley preached it? After hearing the message taught at WOFF, the Greenville church never completed their vision.

      Continue reading Does a “Fear-Based” Message Really Work?

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A Message from Faith Freedom Fund…

This post was supplied by Rev. Cal Sayles from the Faith Freedom Fund.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Neighbors in Rutherford County,

            I am a member of the Faith Freedom Fund, which over the last several years, has assisted those that wish to leave cultic religious mind control groups.  This assistance has taken several forms.  As you are likely aware, many people who come out of such groups depart with next to nothing.  Therefore the Faith Freedom Fund has met a variety of needs from meeting the most basic of physical requirements to sending individuals to Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center in Albany, Ohio to help with their transition and recovery.

     We assist with immediate basic needs such as temporary housing, clothing, and food.  We also make provisions for other needs such as communication with relatives, friends and authorities.  Since every person who leaves a religious mind control group has unique needs, we look to fill any of a varied assortment of needs to include simply having someone to talk to and pray with.

     For those that are leaving religious cults, we ask nothing from them.  We do not insist they attend any specific church or denomination, although they are welcome.  There are no strings attached.  We simply believe in the words of Jesus Christ who said of Himself, Luke 4:18 He has sent me TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, and recovery of sight to the blind, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

     We desire nothing from those that are leaving cults, but everything for them!  We believe that Jesus Christ came to set people free, to remove the need for priest, priestess or any other intermediary, to teach us directly through the Holy Spirit, and to invite us into a loving, joyful relationship with our heavenly Father.  It is the hope of the Faith Freedom Fund that our efforts can contribute to this becoming the reality to those that are imprisoned in religious mind control cults.

     To those that perhaps have quietly begun to question the teachings and methods of the religious organization they currently attend, may I say just a few things to you?  First, I understand the Faith Freedom Fund has been demonized amongst the leadership of cults in this area.  May I tell you that we do not feel the same about you?  I believe that most people who find themselves in a cult are simply, in the words of the Apostles Paul, doing their best to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12), perhaps with a greater vigor and sincerity than most. 

     Continue reading A Message from Faith Freedom Fund…

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Lunch Meeting Produces Insight

     Recently, a lunch meeting with a couple of new friends produced some very interesting information. There were three of us eating at a local restaurant. One fellow holds a management job at a local company. I had spent time with him, previously. The other fellow is preparing to go overseas with his family as a missionary. He and I had never met. There were the introductions and we began to find out about each other. As questions and answers began to come; the fellow preparing for the mission field mentioned he had come out a legalistic church. I did not miss the door and made mention I had experience like that, also. From there the conversation took off.

     The newest friend was a survivor of the Worldwide Church of God. He was a local fellow that had grown up in the county. He and his wife had attended the church-sponsored college and left the group in 1995. Though he had grown up in the county just north of Rutherford county, he was unaware of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and Jane or Sam Whaley. We discussed some of the reasons he may not know of them.  I began to explain a brief history of WOFF. WOFF started in 1979(?), but being so involved in his world may not have allowed him to find out about other groups. Plus, many members of WOFF are from out of the area. As a percentage, most WOFF members are not “home grown”.

     Here is where the fellow that works in management said he had spoken recently to a friend that had left WOFF in the late 80’s. Much of what that WOFF survivor remembered was the “blasting” and loud prayer. (that is another post in the making..)

     The survivor of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) mentioned that “Inside Edition” had come and researched their group. That had happened to WOFF, also. It sounded like around the same time period. He mentioned that the State of California had come into the group and put them in receivership to investigate mis-handling of funds. Later, the State had to admit they had crossed the legal boundary even though there were wrong-doings in the group. The WCG survived for a time. The son of the leader took over. His personal desires for money, liquor and wrong sexual relationships did not reflect well on the church. Eventually, according to the survivor, “The hand of God came down and splintered the group into over 300 groups. Before that, they had over 80,000 members all over the world.”

     As I mentioned things that had gone on at WOFF, such as the list of 145 “don’ts” that was not complete; (see list here.http://tiny.cc/rfeBp ). the WCG survivor said, ” WCG was not that controlling.” Can you believe it? When I mentioned the “Toilet Paper Revelation”, (see post here. http://religiouscultsinfo.com/?p=243  ). he sat back in shock. I mentioned other restraints and “don’ts” and he again confirmed his original statement.

     We agreed on several points. Many survivors have anger when they leave a cult group. Some deal with it well , while others allow it to poison them and even drive them to destructive personal habits. Some deny their belief in God or any type of religion all together. This is very sad. We also agreed that leaving a controlling group can be a direct rejection of the message and the methods while you still respect and love the members. He mentioned he still has relationship with others that had been in the WCG though he had been out since 1995. I did agree that rejecting the group does not mean rejecting the all of the people and relationships. He said that a book his wife read several years ago about cult survival, mentioned it can take eight to ten years to fully recover from cult membership. He agreed now, though at first he did not think so.

     The time spent with these men was a blessing to me. It was good to talk to someone who had grown up in a cult, survived and not lost their hunger for God. We both agreed that seeking God after a cult membership was critical to full recovery. I look forward to more time with these new friends.

     Below are links to some more information about WCG.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador_College  – college info

http://www.wcg.org/ – Website for re-organized Worlwide Church of God.

http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/w/wcog/#news   – fact sheet from Steven Hassan

    Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. It could very well save their life. There are readers at WOFF. I hope this is a help to them.

     Look on the right side of any post for the option to subscribe by email for notifications or RSS feeds notifying of new postings. It is a great feature. Also, find more posts by selecting “Categories”.

      (Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, the information about WOFF is from my memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. )

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Book Review: “Slave and Citizen” by Nathan Irvin Huggins

     This book, “Slave and Citizen” written by Nathan Irvin Huggins, subtitled “The Life of Frederick Douglass” (copyright 1980) was an inspiration to me during the first few months of leaving WOFF. The investment was only 49 cents. The benefit was immense. I picked the book up at a used book store.  It was a relatively quick read of only 185 pages. My emails and notes show I read this book in September of 2008.

     The book outlines the life of Frederick Douglass from his birth to his death at the age of 77 in 1895. He had risen from slave to being a Statesman and Ambassador to Haiti for the United States. He advised President Lincoln and had many other accomplishments. The intriguing part to me was his life beginnings and how he learned to read.

     In 1825,… Frederick was sent to live in Baltimore, MD to the house of Hugh and Sophia Aduld. There is the city he caught his first glimpse of freedom. Mrs. Auld took time to teach Frederick to learn to read the Bible. He was a quick learner and Mrs. Auld was excited to show her husband. Her husband not happy at all, in fact he was enraged. “Hugh Auld with course and brutal language told his wife that slaves should never be taught beyond their station. ‘Not only was it illegal to teach them to read, but it would spoil the best n[igger]r in the world.’ A slave, ‘given an inch, he will take an ell,’ he said. A slave should know nothing but the will of his master. ‘If you learn him how to read, he’ll be running away with himself.” The text goes on… “Frederick … on the other hand learned the most important lesson of his youth: there is something unnatural about slavery;…” (page 5, emphasis added)

     I read this passage in September 2008, about 60 days of being out of WOFF. Those were frightful times as I was struggling with the notions put in me while in WOFF. Those who leave are “under a curse, Judases, digging themselves a deep hole” as some would say. So, this passage woke me up! The reason that Information control is so heavy at WOFF, is because, “If you learn him how to read, he’ll be running away with himself.”  Teaching slaves to read was illegal. Of course members are allowed to read- their Bible.  In the cases of students: textbooks are monitored and censored. Allowing members to read ANYTHING they want is illegal at WOFF. Otherwise, those dutiful, hard working, tithe giving members will get ideas and be running away with themselves!

     After I read this I sent an email to a dear friend. In the email, I share how I read this between 3:00AM and 5:00AM and could not sleep! It all made sense. Keeping members from the newspapers, TV, magazines, most every book and other sources of information; keeps them “in their place”. (if I may be so bold to use a WOFF phrase!) Also, as Frederick Douglass learned, “..there is something unnatural about slavery.” It is unnatural to not have access to the free flow of information. The choice to partake or not partake should be up to the individual, unhindered in any way.

     A common form of information control involves blocking out any critical or negative points of view.” Some cults simply forbid members to have access to any non-cult material such as newspapers, magazines, television or radio, and the Internet…”. These words from “Releasing the Bonds” by Steven Hassan (copyright 2000) make it very clear. Religious cults as well as other mind control groups, attempt to control the information available and thus “keep their members from running way”!

     One main “breach in the dam of control” for me occurred when I searched the term “shepherding movement”. The similarities between the religious move of control in the 70’s and my life experiences at WOFF were too stark to ignore! That started the process of my “running away”.  If the WOFF experience had not been so blatantly like the stories of control I was reading about; I may still be at there, today. Here are some links to the type of information I read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherding_Movement 

http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/04/shepherding.htm

There are plenty of other sources for this subject.

     To my good WOFF readers: you may think that you have free access to all the information sources that you want. You just don’t “want to read the newspaper or watch television or freely surf the Internet”. I remember that rationalization tool. Is it really true or are the consequences of admitting to partaking of the “forbidden” too great for you to risk a violation? Remember– “there is something unnatural about slavery”. In reality, you had to give up your freedoms to continue to be a part of the group. Isn’t that “spiritual slavery”?

     So, to the newest members: did you realize that in order to keep the job or housing you were given that you would have to give up your freedoms in so many areas? Has the spiritual bondage been too slow in developing for you to notice? How is that “..freedom in Christ” working out for you? My critics from WOFF say I don’t use enough scripture. For them:

My precaution was] because of false brethren who had been secretly smuggled in [to the Christian brotherhood]; they had slipped in to spy on our liberty and the freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might again bring us into bondage [under the Law of Moses].
Galatians 2:3-5 ( Amplified version)

     Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. It could very well save their life. There are readers at WOFF. I KNOW for sure and will share that post. Holocaust teacher: Are you reading this one?

     Look on the right side of any post for “Categories”, select the drop down box and view any previous post by selecting “Uncategorized”. Use the slide bar on the right to scroll down to the bottom. Select “Previous Entries” to review older posts. As always, comments welcome.

      (Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, the information about WOFF is from my memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. )

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