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SpoonfulOSugar

Strong City Cult

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SpoonfulOSugar

My gateway fundie group is not one that has been discussed here before . . . the Lord Our Righteousness Church, a Seventh Day Adventist derivative in northeastern New Mexico.  They ate a very sparing vegetarian diet; the women wore long hair, long skirts, and no makeup; by some standards, they were considered a millennial cult.

Strong City (another name) achieved fame/notoriety in 2007 when a documentary was produced by Ben Anthony and it aired on National Geographic.  (I've linked to part one on Youtube - you should be able to go through the other parts with the menu on the right.)

There was a follow-up documentary which I will dig out.

 

Spoiler

 

 

The revelations in the documentary lead to a police investigation; eventually, their leader, Wayne Bent (Michael), was sent to prison because of the criminal sexual contact he had with underage members.

I have been hesitant to discuss them here because MANY members of the church moved on and are now out in society, living their lives.  I want to respect that and not invade their privacy.  

Of any group I've ever read about, the LOR put more out on the web (many page still available through Wayback) and the followers were as facile in social networking as any organization I've seen.  They also have a predilection for changing their names - Travesser is their chosen surname (for the whole group.)

Wayne Bent was released from prison in February:  

http://www.abqjournal.com/724888/news/religious-sect-leader-wayne-bent-is-out-of-prison.html

He is apparently back on the LOR property, and back to producing his word salad on the interwebz:

https://waynebent.com/

And I see that followers have again begun defending him on news stories.

So - what happens to a cult when a leader is removed from the community and then returns?  How has this group's belief system affected people long-term?  

That's what fascinates me.

(And don't be surprised if someone shows up here - they are very assertive about people discussing them.)

 

Edited by OnceUponATime
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CTRLZero

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  One branch of my family was heavily into Seventh Day Adventism, and my relatives would tell me about how firmly they believed in the return of Jesus based on numerous calculations of a date certain.  Apparently, they even went so far as to climb on the roofs of their homes dressed in white at some point in the year 1944 (100 years after the 1844 calculation which was called "The Great Disappointment).  SDA has gone more mainstream (and so have my relatives, thankfully).   So this is pretty fascinating to me as well, because I think my kin were rather cultish (hopefully not of the getting-naked-together-with-minors sort).

Mr. Bent's blog is full of the scriptures on which he calculates Jesus' return, but he doesn't really address why he was doing the healing rite with young teenage girls.  He just points out that the girls claim they didn't feel victimized and that he didn't touch the body parts he was accused of touching by the beast (aka State of New Mexico).  Was he an equal opportunity healer?  I am interested in if he performed these rites naked with all age groups.  Where was this idea found in scripture?  Hmmmm.

Fascinating stuff. 

 

 

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Mary C Doates

Just finished watching the documentary. I'd never heard of this group before. His followers...just crazy stuff. Thanks for the heads-up!

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SpoonfulOSugar

@CTRLZero  The Branch Davidians (Waco) are also SDA derivatives.  I spent some time reading to try to find out if SDA were for some reason inherently more prone to extremism, but I never found anything.

He did NOT lay naked with Matthew, nor did he accept Matthew as one of the seven virgins mentioned to pour out the plagues.

I think (it must be in the other video) that the argument that he touched all sorts of people on the sternum was made with home videos at the trial.  The thing I kept wanting to point out is it isn't just the position of hands - it was his torso against their's as well.

I would stack his Two Witnesses up against any fundy vapid stare out there.

Here is the followup video:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2rzogi

I also found raw footage from a January status hearing (where they were talking about his release.)  In panning the crowd, it appears that 16 people were there on Bent's behalf, including his son, former daughter-in-law/witness, and the Two Witnesses.  So that answers some of my question about where individuals are/if they have moved on.

 

As I said, I know many members have moved on and I appreciate that.  I do wonder, though, how the group will evolve from here.

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DaisyD

This just makes me really glad that Warren Jeffs will likely not live long enough to get out of jail.

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SpoonfulOSugar
31 minutes ago, daisyd681 said:

This just makes me really glad that Warren Jeffs will likely not live long enough to get out of jail.

Given Bent's age and state of health (and his umpteen hunger strikes) I wasn't really expecting to see him released.  I do wonder how the original prosecutor feels about the renegotiated sentence.

Part the grounds for his release is his health now - he was supposedly scheduled to have surgery in early March.  I'm very curious what's going on on that front, too.

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CTRLZero
2 hours ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

 I spent some time reading to try to find out if SDA were for some reason inherently more prone to extremism, but I never found anything.

This cult seems to be a hybrid between SDA (the endtimes) and LDS (polygamy), with a pinch of who knows what.  I felt for Seth, the teenager who felt forced to leave his family at the compound because he felt unwelcome.  In polygamous societies, I believe young men are problematic. 

The two girls were very careful to specify that Bent touched/kissed them in nonsexual locations despite their nakedness.  And it was enlightening to learn that three other virgins (must have turned 18 years old) experienced "The Consummation" with Bent.  Couldn't believe his line of the lord pressing him to have sex with Seth's mother (may have gotten the woman's name wrong, there were so many) and how painful it was to Bent--what a bullshitter, it was probably just a case of blue balls.

:angry-banghead:

I do wonder what the others are doing today, and how those who left have processed their experiences.

 

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SilverBeach
2 hours ago, daisyd681 said:

This just makes me really glad that Warren Jeffs will likely not live long enough to get out of jail.

He has a life sentence plus 20 years, fucker. 

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DaisyD

He's eligible for parole when he's 100. At least that was what CNN said when I double checked. 

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SpoonfulOSugar
11 minutes ago, daisyd681 said:

He's eligible for parole when he's 100. At least that was what CNN said when I double checked. 

I just looked him up.  Apparently he's eligible for parole in 2038, when he will be 83.

Jeffs.thumb.png.66b0f95b59dfc881cbbe1c8f

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SilverBeach
Just now, SpoonfulOSugar said:

I just looked him up.  Apparently he's eligible for parole in 2038, when he will be 83.

Jeffs.thumb.png.66b0f95b59dfc881cbbe1c8f

83, 100, I do not think he will ever be granted parole although he may be eligible. Asshole will likely die before then. I hate that man with the heat of a thousand suns. I have read just about all the books written by FLDS escapees, and their experiences are heartbreaking. 

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DaisyD

Well that's disappointing. I thought he got at least 45 years and was sentenced when he was55. 

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SpoonfulOSugar

I've been trying to understand how Bent was released early.  The video showed some of the discussion.  I wonder how often people are released early because the state doesn't want to pay for medical procedures?  (Surely that varies from state to state?)

Prison certainly hasn't slowed his writing.  He's clearly completely unrepentant.  I would expect prison to make me a meek, mild mouse.  (But I have tendencies toward that already, not megalomania . . . . )

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DaisyD
Quote

On Monday, December 15, 2008, jurors convicted Wayne Bent of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was acquitted of a second charge of criminal sexual contact with a minor.[15] Bent was allowed to return to Strong City, the sect's compound near Clayton, pending sentencing.[15] On Dec 30th, Judge Gerald Baca imposed the maximum sentence of 18 years but suspended eight years. He will have to serve at least 8½ years before becoming eligible for release.

He would have been eligible next year anyway. I think the state decided to save themselves the money on his surgery and let him out a year early.

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gustava

Dr. Ben Carson, who just suspended his candidacy for POTUS, is a 7th Day Adventist.

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SpoonfulOSugar
17 hours ago, CTRLZero said:

This cult seems to be a hybrid between SDA (the endtimes) and LDS (polygamy), with a pinch of who knows what.  I felt for Seth, the teenager who felt forced to leave his family at the compound because he felt unwelcome.  In polygamous societies, I believe young men are problematic. 

The two girls were very careful to specify that Bent touched/kissed them in nonsexual locations despite their nakedness.  And it was enlightening to learn that three other virgins (must have turned 18 years old) experienced "The Consummation" with Bent.  Couldn't believe his line of the lord pressing him to have sex with Seth's mother (may have gotten the woman's name wrong, there were so many) and how painful it was to Bent--what a bullshitter, it was probably just a case of blue balls.

:angry-banghead:

I do wonder what the others are doing today, and how those who left have processed their experiences.

 

Is it still called polygamy if only one man in the group sleeps with all the women and the others are psychological eunuchs?  (I don't know . . . . )

All of the marriages in Strong City were dissolved.  They were urged to direct their love/energy/time towards Michael.

Seth is definitely a wounded soul.  There used to be a website run by Prudence (who was on the second movie) and it was clear that Seth, Matthew, and the husbands of the witnesses were some of the most hurt.   :(  

I do know that the man who lost his wife (on the first video) married one of Wayne's virgins and they have had a child.  My impression is that his son and daughter-in-law have reconciled.

Two of the older members have also married (each other), but they are still living on at Strong City as far as I can tell.

Wayne's post from yesterday starts out:

Quote

I know of the many thousands of negative comments on the internet about me by people who imagine that they understand me and are sure they know all about me. Their puffed up and utterly distorted minds put their own perverted spin on everything I have carried out in obedience to the plain command of God to my soul and spirit.

He has an interesting way of gaslighting.  If you think he sinned, it is because of your own perversion.  He could not possibly sin because he is Michael . . . .

I had forgotten how long-winded he is.  I wonder if it just wears people down so that they concede from exhaustion.

One of the factors that fascinates me about cults is that when a predicted event fails to materialize, it tends to draw them closer together and reinforce their passion, rather than cause a schism.

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DaisyD

Why is it that God always tells these guys to have sex with all these women/girls? I don't know about you but if a man were to tell me that God said we should have sex I'd respond by explaining that the thing in his pants is not, in fact, God.

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Meh
refugee
20 hours ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

@CTRLZero  The Branch Davidians (Waco) are also SDA derivatives.  I spent some time reading to try to find out if SDA were for some reason inherently more prone to extremism, but I never found anything.

There's this prophetess in their past, Ellen G. White, who seems to be a basis for much of the craziness. She was a prolific writer. Her books have been modernized and are being published now under the author's name E.G. White -- the one I saw on the Goodwill shelves recently in like-new condition looked like it had been heavily sanitized, at least the introduction and the description of the author. If I had not already been familiar with White (mostly through an acquaintance who was part of one of the more fanatical SDA groups -- they ended up dissolving marriages and separating the men and women, sort of like the Shakers, maybe?), I wouldn't have realized it was from her writings.

I am not discerning enough to categorize her errors. I just know, the person I was with picked up the book with delight, exclaiming that it was about Noah and it looked intriguing. She handed it to me; I started to read it and my alarm bells went off, which is why I started combing for clues and finally told the person it was bad news. You know what? She bought it and put it in her recycling bin for pulping! Said it was her service to someone else who might never have heard of White.

Interestingly enough (to me, anyhow), the late Paul Harvey occasionally mentioned Ellen G. White as a great teacher.

ETA: The SDA people I've known have fallen into more than one category.

- more mainstream: Say they don't follow White

- more crazy: Follow White and are proud and loud about it

- more subtle: Say they don't follow White, but they actually have her books on their shelves and practice some of the stricter observances, like veganism or other dietary restriction (there's an SDA natural foods grocery in the area that doesn't sell pork products, for example) and avoiding caffeine.

Edited by refugee
clarification

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SpoonfulOSugar
19 minutes ago, daisyd681 said:

Why is it that God always tells these guys to have sex with all these women/girls? I don't know about you but if a man were to tell me that God said we should have sex I'd respond by explaining that the thing in his pants is not, in fact, God.

Bu . . . bu. . . . bu. . . but God told the Womenz to have sex with Michael!!!!  The fact that Michael had written volumes about it had NOTHING to do with . . . NOTHING.

(And then the Two Witnesses wrote about it, and encouraged it from the virgins, along with Michael . . . etc etc etc)

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Cleopatra7

Both the SDA and the Latter Day Saints movement believe in continuing revelations, which is a great way to empower would be prophets and cult leaders, since they is no way to know if someone isn't a prophet. Although the mainstream SDA and Mormon churches have both tried to routinize prophecy, each tradition has elements that make it easy for charismatic leaders to emerge. Clive Doyle, one of the surviving Branch Davidians, said that the SDA tradition said to not immediately discount a potential prophet, but use scripture and debate to determine whether he or she is telling the truth. The many Mormon splinter groups tend to be led by their own self appointed prophets as well.

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SilverBeach
3 minutes ago, Cleopatra7 said:

Both the SDA and the Latter Day Saints movement believe in continuing revelations, which is a great way to empower would be prophets and cult leaders, since they is no way to know if someone isn't a prophet. 

Jehovah Witnesses believe in continuing revelations also, they call it "new light".

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SpoonfulOSugar
13 minutes ago, Cleopatra7 said:

each tradition has elements that make it easy for charismatic leaders to emerge

Could you go into this further and/or point me to additional reading?  This is what fascinates me and I think also puzzles me because in my mainstream church (United Methodist) growing up, someone claiming to be a prophet would likely have been roundly poo-poo'ed.  I mean - it just wasn't DONE.

So I just don't get how it is that people are predisposed to accept this behavior.  (I accept that it is so - I just would like to go deeper in understanding it.)

Lots of references in Bent's writing to Ellen G. White.  I wish I could find (I think they've been deleted) some of the websites that were in place to expose Bent at the time of his trial.

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SilverBeach

@SpoonfulOSugar, cults are another prime interest of mine, in addition to FJ of course. The Cult Education Network has comprehensive information on a plethora of groups, including the ones discussed here. I check the news headlines each day. Warning: Rescue ferrets may be needed

http://www.culteducation.com/

The site also gives good insight into how high control groups operate and how people end up in these groups. It is fascinating. I fell prey to a cult way back when I was 16 (I'm 60 now), and this topic interests me a lot.

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Cleopatra7
14 minutes ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

Could you go into this further and/or point me to additional reading?  This is what fascinates me and I think also puzzles me because in my mainstream church (United Methodist) growing up, someone claiming to be a prophet would likely have been roundly poo-poo'ed.  I mean - it just wasn't DONE.

So I just don't get how it is that people are predisposed to accept this behavior.  (I accept that it is so - I just would like to go deeper in understanding it.)

Lots of references in Bent's writing to Ellen G. White.  I wish I could find (I think they've been deleted) some of the websites that were in place to expose Bent at the time of his trial.

In terms of Mormonism, the Mormon Expression, Mormon Expositor, and Mormon Feminist Housewives podcasts are excellent sources. The first two don't seem to be updated anymore but are still up on iTunes and are a great source for all things Latter Day Saints. MFH did a series on polygamy from the POV of Mormon women that was great and now they're doing one on racism that is also awesome. "No Man Knows My History" by Fawn Brodie is generally considered the definitive history of Joseph Smith. "Under the Banner of Heaven" will help you understand how and why the Latter Day Saints movement keeps spawning these freaky and often violent splinter groups. 

As for the Branch Davidians, the only book you need to read is "The Branch Davidians of Waco" by Kenneth Newport. As far as I know, it's the only work that traces the BD and their theology back to the Ellen White and Victor Hoteff, the founder of the Davidians, and explains why the BD theology make them act in the way they did during the siege and the fire. Amazon is selling it for $90+ although o know I didn't pay that much for my copy. If you can find it at a library or used, don't hesitate to buy it, because it cuts through all the bull about Waco that has accumulated over twenty odd years (the fact that Newport is British helps, since he presumably doesn't have a dog in the culture war interpretations of Waco).

Another book that might interest you is "Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery" by Martin Gardner. The Urantia group was a more new agey spin-off of the SDA church, but the book has a lot of good information on the SDA church in general and the role of prophecy in the group. Gardner grew up as a fundie SDA, but became a notable skeptic. He wrote a lot about the SDA church, but many of those where in magazines and may not be accessible. However, you can go on Amazon and look through his books of essays and see which ones contain articles on the SDA church. You local library should have many of Gardner's books as well.

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CTRLZero
2 hours ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

Is it still called polygamy if only one man in the group sleeps with all the women and the others are psychological eunuchs?

Sometimes words fail me when it comes to these poly-arrangements.  How do these folks support themselves?  Will there be a food stamp crisis in their future, or are they self-sustaining?

11 minutes ago, Cleopatra7 said:

Urantia

Oh, my, The Book of Urantia.  As I mentioned above, some of my relatives were early SDA (I think some were involved in founding Loma Linda University, and then there were the more extreme ones who hung out on rooftops awaiting Jesus' return).  When I was in my early teens, this Book of Urantia was being studied and passed around the [wacky side of the] family.  I didn't realize the SDA connection, only flipped through the book and recall being pretty upset at some of its theories.  Sometimes I wonder how I emerged mostly unscathed with all this religious crap floating through my early years.  Sigh...

Thank you for all the book suggestions.  I think I am going to have to wade into it to educate myself on just what that branch of the family was up to all those years.  The stories I could tell (but will save for another day).

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