Tag Archives: Word of Faith Fellowship

FLDS vs. WOFF – the Similarities – part 3

     Elissa Wall with Lisa Pulitzer wrote “Stolen Innocence“. (copyright 2008) In this book, Ms. Wall explains many aspects of the daily life in a polygamous household. She also explains church history and authority structures of how the FLDS was run.

     The “prophet” had far reaching power and authority in FLDS. “The prophet decides when two people marry, when families can form, and when families that are not working are to be reorganized.” (pg 17) This power brought with it a lot of fear in the FLDS members. Especially when there was “one man rule”..

     Jane Whaley has this same kind of power and authority at WOFF. She exercises authority over who is married, when households can form and when households are not working, she says when and how they are to be reorganized. This power over members is given by default to Jane by some members. Some members own their own houses with other members living with them. Who lives in that house is STILL dictated by Jane – if you are submitted to “God’s will”. Ultimately, Jane is THE one who hears God in these situations as well as EVERY OTHER question at WOFF. Do not be fooled; if you “join” WOFF, then where you live as well as MANY other things will be under Jane’s direction, either directly or indirectly. Those who live in church owned properties are ALWAYS at the direction of Jane about where they live. Just like FLDS; when the very place you sleep and raise your family is subject to immediate change, there is a level of fear associated with that knowledge which can lead you to ignore many issues and rationalize that it is not worth making a scene or questioning leadership. You could lose your home, your job, your family….if you raise the wrong questions.

     Elissa goes on to explain further. “It was common practice to expel men, and in extreme cases women, whom the priesthood considers a threat… All that’s required is for the prophet or someone acting at his direction to say” “You have lost your priesthood”. The significance of this is enormous for believers, as it creates a culture of fear. If a husband loses his priesthood, his family is literally no longer his. In addition, he has to leave his land and home because his home is owned by the FLDS Church and controlled by the priesthood. Faithful wives and children will accept these decisions and wait to be reassigned to another man. In the meantime, the father is told that his only chance to win back his family is to leave and repent at a distance.” (page 18) (emphasis added by author)

     Elissa Wall continues to share that as she was growing up, “..I was taught that I should never do anything to go against the prophet or priesthood. Doing so would ultimately be going against God himself.” (pg 17-18)

     Who can count the number of families that have been broken up because of the same type of power that Jane Whaley possesses? Who can measure the emotional trauma over hearing either from Jane or one of her lieutenants: “You are out of the church. You need to stay away until you find a place of repentance.” Yes, many times it was men, but at times women were expelled, also. Even the highest ranking lieutenants, were subject to being put out and told to “seek God and repent”. There were times Sam Whaley was rebuked in services by Jane and “put out to find a place of repentance”. Even if you spent years in the church, there was always the underlying  faith destroying fear of “What could that person have done to be put out? I want to know so I don’t do that!” Seeing others “put out” was enough in many cases to keep people in line for months or years. The whole situation was to solidify and consolidate Jane’s power base and make sure all members knew who was in charge. A few times, Jane would recount what a person had done to be kicked out. (some times in veiled terms, sometimes not..) That would even further strengthen the fear of other members! The result was fear of Jane more than God. She “spoke for God” and did not allow others to buck or voice doubt of her perfection in that area.

      During my time at WOFF, the ONLY times I heard Jane repent was for mis-pronouncing a name or mispronouncing a word. She would go through fits and scream at members in the services quite frequently. But, “leave her alone, God must be angry with us as Jane is HIS messenger.” Many times, I heard her come into a service screaming,” The sin in here makes me sick!”.  So, after that the joy was hard to show on our faces and many cowered, “What did I do?” Is it my turn to be blasted?” But, don’t get up to use the bathroom during a service, “You should have done that BEFORE the service.” That was always a big deal; lines in the bathroom before service were always long! Also, don’t ever fall asleep or nod in a service. Jane would say- “That “sleep devil” is attacking some in here! Stand up and move to the back so you can hear the WORD! You may miss the very WORD that would keep you from going to hell!”.

     The very first Sunday service of one seminar a few years ago, it was learned by Jane that a certain senior citizen was going to the local grocery stores and picking up fliers for other member’s to use. Jane looked befuddled and said, “No one told me about that…”. She ordered the lady to stand up. This lady was more than half way back in the sanctuary and not far from where I was sitting. Jane said a few things at a high volume and it was plain to see that the senior was shaking. Jane stormed out, but not before she screamed so all could feel it, “Your sin affects me!” What you do in this community is a reflection of me! It was clear that even the best of intentions mattered not. The lady collapsed in a heap crying. She was in “discipleship” (put in another room and not allowed to be in the sanctuary while watching the services on a monitor) until she found a place of repentance. This was another display of the constant fear-based control that Jane Whaley used and continues to use at WOFF.

     The list of similar characteristics and control techniques in FLDS and WOFF continues to grow. There are more yet to come.

     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 some good readers inside of WOFF. I know for sure.. 🙂

(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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FLDS vs. WOFF – the Similarities – part 2

     Brent Jeffs makes it clear in his book, “Lost Boy”; that there were many times that the leadership of the FLDS church coined a special word to soften the meaning or actually hide the true meaning of a phrase or activity. In WOFF, that happened regularly. Many of the phrases have been used already in postings here. However, here is a recap of the terms used in WOFF, either coined or re-defined to meet the needs of leadership, ie. Jane Whaley. (Jane Whaley had the final say as to what term to use and how to use it in any situation.)

     When I first came out of WOFF, I had to re-adjust my vocabulary so many folks could understand what I was saying. To explain the terms I had used meant explaining why I left WOFF and there usually was not time for that while working.

1. Take hold – In WOFF could mean- shape up…? Get with the program! Put a lid on it! Just obey what you have been told! The phrase could mean many things according to the context. “Take hold of that person” – help them “get their heart right” and submit to what ever Jane said or was dictated from the pulpit.

2. Open your Heart, – Share you heart, tell ALL your sin to someone who is “taking hold of your life”… In FLDS- “reporting in” (Lost Boy-pg 120)

3. “Fulfill your call“- move up the ranks and pass on the control to others, repeat the message until others get it through you… It was said many times; “You will never full your call until you help someone else fulfill their call.”  The way this transpired was you finding someone else to “help open their heart” and “take hold of them”.Help them..”find their place of submission in Jesus”, or in the group- which ever was more obvious.

4. Stay submitted”– meant don’t get mad about something that you don’t understand. AND don’t ask any more questions about it! Also, you could be reminded to “be sweet”… One leader spent several sermons talking about how he was learning to “be sweet” and how that “helped” him.

In FLDS; the equivalent- “Keep Sweet“. (Lost Boy-pg 29) You are not supposed to have the “bad feelings” or thoughts- if you did, then don’t voice them.. “Don’t refuse a blessing…”

5. “Everyone loves Jane Whaley and Jane Whaley loves everyone- if they don’t show that love they are listening to the devil!” This was Jane’s admitted rationale statement she used to justify why others may shun her or speak evil of her. She said this thought helped her approach others that may not seem ready to “be sweet” to her… (This will be a posting all by itself later..Have you ever heard of Narcissism?.)

6.  “fine tuning” In WOFF; this meant getting further instruction or interpretation on a situation from Jane.    “Adjustments”- In FLDS,  this meant changes in the rules. (Usually more strict…)

7. “Work Projects“- In WOFF, this was taking time after normal work hours and on Saturdays to work at someone else’s house helping them. It could also be at the church or on a church owned property. Supposedly, there was a list that Jane and one of her close “helpers” kept of houses that needed paint, carpet, or other changes. Early on, many men were told that they needed to get involved in these work projects ESPECIALLY if they had a handyman type skill. I painted for a while until it was obvious that doing this would leave little to NO time for family activities. (which in some cases- men were told that they “gave to perversion” with their family so, why would you need to spend that much time with them?”) Getting involved in helping others would “help you come into your place in the ministry.”  

In FLDS- “Saturday Work Days” – young boys of 14 on up in age were expected to do the SAME THING on Saturday as was mentioned for WOFF. It appears that both groups used the standard “guilt trip” techniques to shame folks into leaving their families and “help” others with their houses. It was meant to save folks money but at what cost?

8. “Receiving a Blessing“- In FLDS, never refuse a blessing, it was seen as ungrateful and nonspiritual and not “being obedient“. Being obedient was a cornerstone of FLDS (and WOFF). (Lost Boy -pg 12, 31)

In WOFF, your “blessing” could have a big mortgage payment or even a large car payment attached to it, strange “blessing” in many cases. Anything that may be evidence of a “prosperous” lifestyle had to be a “blessing”. Sam Whaley often mentioned how his friends would drive through the church parking lot and see the cars of members. They would say “Sam, your folks must be doing good… not an old car in the lot!”… Sam was so happy to hear this!

9. In WOFF- go get “checked out” to see if you are hearing right? Is this time for me to get married?” that is with Jane Whaley of course. Jane claimed to never direct anyone without knowing their was a mutual interest from both parties. But, all relationships and ALL marriages were Jane approved or IT DID NOT HAPPEN. And if a couple “sinned” before they were able to get married, it could be called off or postponed indefinitely by Jane.

In FLDS- a woman could “present herself” for marriage. The prophet would ask her if she had a vision of who should be her husband. If she had heard right, then the prophet may set-up a quick wedding. If not, then he may direct her to go back and pray more or tell her straight out who she would marry.  (Lost Boy -pg 18)

10.  In WOFF- “singles fellowship nights”where a sinlge man and single woman could talk and “be guarded” in their conversation- many times over dinner at the church. These meetings were often accompanied by teaching on “God’s way for relationships”.  

In FLDS – “Fireside gatherings” (Lost Boy -pg 19), FLDS would allow young singles over 15 years old to come together and teach them about Mormon marriage relationships. Afterwards, they would allow them to socialize over snacks.

11. “One man Rule”  (Lost Boy-pg 15), In FLDS, One man rule was just that. Counsel from other men in leadership was not needed or heeded.

In WOFF – in theory, Jane Whaley has a Board of Directors and a group of “leadership” that she asks questions and allows to be in her office when members come in with problems. But, so let it be known, so let it be written – Jane has the final say in EVERY matter of the church. In 16 years, I remember only one time did Jane share her pulpit with an outside speaker (politicians courting the vote…excepted..) Dr. “Z” from Africa was allowed to come speak. After Jane “prayed” for him and he left the building; Jane said he was not “walking where we are” and discounted just about everything the man said. She did not want any “error to take root in us”..

12. In WOFF- “That did not feel right”. The phrase could mean different things at different times. Most of the time someone used this phrase to arrest the attention of someone else about something they did or said. It could involve an individual or a group of folks and by using the phrase; you were putting them on notice that the whole situation was now going to be reviewed by someone in leadership. (most likely – Jane.) Then it could be checked out to see if everyone involved was “giving to Jesus” and “had a hold of Jesus” and, and ,and… many times it was a whole big deal and new doctrines, rules and edicts came from these times. For this was when things were “fine tuned“… What was the outcome? Many times it served as an exhibition of Jane’s power to determine what was sin; who was in sin; who was right and who was “giving to devils” and , and, and, – a further clarification of who was in charge- Jane.

Explaining the special code words and their meaning that has been present in both FLDS and WOFF will take more postings. Let it be sufficient to show the number of code words and their similarities listed in this post are more than just one or two. The “code” words are also indicative of the similar practices in both groups.

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FLDS vs. WOFF – The Similarities – Part 1

     “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.” Benjamin Franklin

     In “Lost Boy” (copyright©2009 by Brent Jeffs and Maia Szalavitz, ISBN-978-0-7696-3177-9) , Brent Jeffs outlines the message he heard preached over and over. It was the basis used for the authority over the lives of the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints (FLDS). From his account and others, the preaching and practice seemed to match.

“…We, your leaders, know the Word of God; you must obey us. … Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, … We know what’s good for you. We are God’s prophets, seers and revelators. Our revelations come straight from God Himself… I love you and want to save you in the Celestial Kingdom of God. So, if you will keep the grand teaching that we are trying to get over: Keep the Holy Spirit of God! Keep sweet! It is a matter of life and death.”  (page 60) (emphasis added by blog author)

     Later in the book when describing a survivalist training class taught at the church school: “Like everything else, it made sense only retrospectively- as yet another way the church leadership terrorized and controlled the people. By frightening us, they ensured we would obey unthinkingly, rather than considering how absurd their prophecies really were. It is amazing how well fear can work to surpress rational thought, something I unfortunately experienced over and over during my time in the church.” (page 99) (emphasis added by author)

     These statements and practices were obviously used as a basis for the power and authority structure of FLDS. As with many cults, the authority over the lives of the members was far reaching and fear based. First and foremost in FLDS was dictating the family structure. Wives and children were assigned to men with no consideration for personal feelings. Other daily matters like dress, hairstyle, job selection and entertainment choices were determined by leadership in the church. (reference pages: 26- living arrangements, 56- television,  72- clothing, 90-clothes during swimming, 102 -relationships, 104- idolatry, in the pictures notice the white shirts on the men in picture of them dressed for church, page 185- job selection, http://tiny.cc/5coTU pictures of children dressed alike and the list goes on…)     

     What was similar to this at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF)? Are simple everyday matters of life controlled by Jane Whaley or other lieutenants? Let me begin by noting that not everybody is in the exact same situation at any one given time, in a group like WOFF. New members have been given “more grace” in times past. Also, not every veteran member is required to accept the same control measures from Jane or other lieutenants on every point. My inside knowledge of WOFF stopped July 8, 2008. It actually began to wane before that – starting June 6, 2008. All that being said, I have NO evidence of any major changes within the group from any source either inside or outside.  I am told by a source closer to WOFF, that things for the children have “lightened up”. (more on that later…)   

     So, the degree of oversight or “control” felt by each individual member is different at different times in different situations.  Like FLDS, ” This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted- by revelation adapted to the circumstance in which the children of the kingdom are placed“.  (page 60)  

     Now that the disclaimers are finished, we will discuss one area of control exercised in both groups. FLDS: “Reporting in was one of the many ways the church leadership monitored the members. Once a month, every man would report on his life and sins to his priesthood head. Nothing was off limits. You had to tell everything…. You knew it would filter up to Warren if it was bad enough.” (page 120)

     In WOFF, this was called “opening your heart“. It was not limited to once a month and not just to men.  Everyone from children up was encouraged to “tell all” and keep your heart open to the person “taking hold of your life“.  And yes, you knew that “it would filter up to Jane if it was bad enough”… Many times other folks would be implicated and interrogated because of a child’s confession of a matter to an adult that was not their parent. Spouses would tell on spouses and co-workers on co-workers for things done that “may not feel right”..  There was a highly developed reporting system of these “open your heart” sessions.

     “This kept Warren and his henchmen on top of all the gossip and gave them material to use against you if they wanted leverage to keep you in check.” (page 121) The guise was to help, the function and purpose was to control in FLDS and WOFF. More in the posts to come….

P.S. Is there trouble brewing in Brazil?

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FLDS vs. WOFF – the Differences

Let’s look at the differences in these two groups. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) formerly run by Warren Jeffs compared to Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) run by Jane Whaley. The basis for the comparison is information gathered from materials I have read about FLDS from those who were a part versus events and experiences I had while inside WOFF for 6 years (2002 to 2008) and traveling from Greenville, SC to attend services and seminars (1992 to 2002).

Location: FLDS is located in Utah, Arizona and Texas. WOFF is located in North Carolina along with affiliated churches in Brazil, Ghana (Africa) and Denmark. There may be followers in other locations that the author is not aware of.  The location is important because the communities where these groups function can either limit their activities or allow them to continue. Since the historic stand off called “Short Creek” ( read more here.. http://tiny.cc/ihTCw ) in July 1953; FLDS members have been allowed to continue on with polygamy. Many turned a blind eye and the social and sexual devastation has continued for years.

The 1995 infiltration of WOFF by a hidden camera toting young man was their “Short Creek”. “Inside Edition” showed scenes from inside church services that raised many questions. ( read a list of articles here.. http://tiny.cc/Yql1j ) Videos surfaced that caused many to wonder if the church was indeed safe for children. Stories surfaced of child abuse. The local DSS became involved at some point.  There was the Shana Muse custody case with its ups and downs. (http://tiny.cc/t8WVV) In a case filed against the local DSS – WOFF won a settlement in the Federal Appellate Court and had several folks from the local DSS barred from the church property as well as having DSS pay a portion of the WOFF attorney’s fees.

So, the differences between FLDS and WOFF: FLDS is run by a man or men. WOFF is run by a woman and mainly women. Within FLDS, women are considered as property to be traded or possessed. In WOFF, women are revered and their needs addressed.

FLDS membership is much larger in numbers, thousands versus locally, less than 500 for WOFF. FLDS had at one time a land trust worth over $100 million. WOFF owns several properties right around their main church property on Old Flynn Rd. The author does not suppose the holdings would total $100 million.

FLDS practices polygamy as well as underage marriage. WOFF is run by Jane Whaley. There is much control exerted over relationships between young people and married couples, but no plural marriages or condoning of sex outside of marriage that the author is aware of.

According to accounts written by survivors of FLDS, FLDS is prejudice against people of other races or nationalities. WOFF embraces people from many nations. At one time during the author’s time at WOFF; there were 19 different nations represented at WOFF.

FLDS teaches the doctrine from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. WOFF uses the Amplified version of the Christian Bible with an occasional reference to the King James version of the Bible.

FLDS has several websites to explain their views. WOFF has no such presence on the web – as far as the author can find.

Those are the main differences. Doctrinal issues not being discussed here. We will next look at the similarities between the two groups.

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How Do You “Join a Cult”? Part 2

   Many cult experts warn of deception in recruiting practices. Prospective members are not told the true purpose of the group and are kept on a “need to know” basis.  One important thing to add is the dimension of  changing dynamics within a group that would cause an evolution into a controlling cult when at its inception a particular group was not that way. That is what I witnessed in the cult I was in for sixteen years. My wife and I joined the group in March of 1992. Many of the practices were voluntary but, as the years progressed so did the pressures to conform and “be a leader” and “fulfill your call”. We were members of Grace and Truth; later called Word of Life, Greenville, SC that became affiliated and closely tied with Word of Faith Fellowship, Spindale, NC.

    Jane and Sam Whaley were the self appointed – “apostles” leading Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). Gerald and Linda Southerland and the church -Word of Life evolved into a sister church as the leaders from Greenville, became closer to the leaders at WOFF. As a church, we would be gifted with sermons repreaching what the leaders had heard at WOFF. At times, we would listen to tapes of WOFF services to “stay in tune with what God was doing there..”.

     The evolution culminated in January of 2002. Jane Whaley and a couple of her lieutenants visited the church in Greenville to announce that “God had said the Greenville church was to merge with WOFF”. It was evident that Gerald Southerland had a hard time with the “news from God.” However, as the weeks passed, he realized that his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter would move without him. He knew he had to give up his church and become a part of WOFF. Several of the members of Word of Life were asked by Jane Whaley if after hearing what “God said”, would they move to Spindale? As far as I am aware of, all said yes. Each one had a different situation with employment and housing. But, “God would work it out”..!

    Consider the dynamics. People we had been close with for ten years; just about everyone was moving to a town 60 miles away to be “a part of the move of God!”  We made the steps and moved with the rest. Thus we became closely involved in a very controlling religious group – Word of Faith Fellowship, Spindale, NC.

    Our path into this cult and its practices was gradual. After six years, I left WOFF in July of 2008. A co-worker asked me how I could get involved in something like that? “You seem intelligent”. I told her “One lie at a time”. You turn your head and ignore the thing that seems weird or not right. You “go with the flow” until you are over the edge and it takes a miracle to get back! You stuff your doubts until they just all come out. You make choices to keep the relationships you have regardless of the unorthodox practices. Besides, as Deborah Layton said- “You really like the people”. That is how we got in the cult. Getting out was a whole big deal and a post for another day.

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How Do You “Join a Cult”? Part 1

    “Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them. You join a religious organization, you join a political movement. Most of all you join a group of people you really like!” These are the words of Deborah Layton on the PBS Home Video- “Jonestown” (copyright 2007). Ms. Layton is a Jonestown survivor. She left about five months before the massacre. She was considered one of the leaders at the time of her departure. Her brother, Steve was convicted and served time for his role in the shootings at the airstrip on that fateful day- September 18, 1978.

     My experience reflects the words of Deborah Layton. I did not join a cult. My wife and I joined a church in Greenville, SC – Word of Life. My wife had known the pastors- Gerald and Linda Southerland since she was in high school. We had a distasteful church experience in Summerville, SC in 1991 and were looking for a church home. We visited Word of Life (at that time called “Grace and Truth”, and though the practices were different in many respects from what we were used to; we moved in March of 1992 to be a part. There was a “training center” in the weekday mornings and we wanted to learn more. Many in the church took us in and “loved us”.

    By May of 1992, we found out that this church was a sister church to Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC. At that time, attendance to the seminars held by Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) was strictly voluntary. However, soon one learned that in order to “grow”, you needed to get to Spindale! Over the months and years, the meetings in Spindale became more frequent. As a church we were expected to be there for Friday night fellowships, Sunday evening services and other special events. The drive was about an hour one way.

    The pastors, Jane and Sam Whaley had been involved with Word of Faith in Broken Arrow, OK in previous years. However, in 1979(?), when they returned to Rutherford County, NC the ties to Kenneth Hagin Ministries were very weak. Jane and Sam were preaching deliverance for Christians and loud prayer as a means to accomplish this. Regardless of the seemingly unorthodox practices, the “love and fellowship” one felt among the people was a huge drawing card to continue with the group.

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