As I wound my way up to Morning Star Ranch Farm tucked back in the hills of Valley Center located adjacent to the well visited Keys Creek Lavender Farm, I remembered a man from years back. He was a short bearded man with long hair tied at the base of his neck dressed comfortably in homespun peasant style clothes that ran a natural candle and soap shop in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Originally called by another name, the gentle soft spoken man was part of the often media highlighted spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child Island Pond Twelve Tribes Commonwealth of Israel commune entrenched in the Green Mountain State’s secluded ‘can’t-get-there-from-here’ Northeast Kingdom.

I hadn't seen him--or people dressed like him-- in 20 years, not since moving away from the land of maple syrup and cider mill donuts. Not until, having finally forfeited the North East's frigid winters and overcast skies for the surf and sand of sunny San Diego a few years back, I spied a female from Twelve Tribes with her head wrapped and a baby on her hip selling Mate at the Oceanside Farmers Market.

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The Twelve Tribes are a messianic community, an association of individuals “who love one another so greatly that they are of one heart and mind, holding all things as common property, living together…devoted to one another.” As a child of the ‘70’s and a lifetime student of communes I can so identify. As a free spirit back to the land-er I am in total alignment with their simple social system of agrarian entrepreneurial self sufficiency and ecological responsibility. And admittedly, I am more than impressed by their expansive system of cottage industries, integrated business model and savvy strategizing that landed contracts with the likes of Estee Lauder and Sundance Catalog, (until the cosmetic company discovered that 14 year olds were alongside their parents in the production line which the State of New York ruled as illegal indentured servitude). But, that’s where the attraction ends for this lass.

The father of my children at one point had tried to convince me that joining them would be good for us, as a couple, as a family. We, after all, had very similar lifestyles to them—we were half way there. They home birthed and home schooled their children, as I had done. They grew, cooked and preserved their own food as I tried to do. The women didn't wear makeup or shave as I then didn't and the men had long hair and beards as he then did. Aside from those similarities, though, I couldn’t see how he could think we’d fit in. How he thought I would fit in.

It is no secret that I regard the bible as only one of history’s books of truths and Christianity as but a single path to godliness. It is also no secret that I’m a feminist who supports equal opportunity for all regardless of sex, age, race or sexually inclination. Therefore, as driven as I am to serve those I love—including the man I love--I knew then that there was no way on God’s green Earth that I was going to voluntarily subjugate myself to him simply because he was male, let alone to an entire community of men, a “BROTHERhood,” who believed God granted them superiority by virtue of their penises. Nope. Not this emancipated gal. I knew then that our paths were leading us in different directions and from the minute he walked out my door I became the only Head of Household to ever rule my roost.

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To each their own, however, and the women of the Twelve Tribes submit to the authority and judgment of not just their husbands and fathers, but to all the men in the community. Clearly following more than Yahshu (Jesus), they live by the rules and standards established by a single man, supported in turn by a colony of men. They submit to the will and doctrine of "The Apostle".

Elbert Eugene Spriggs, (known as Yoneq internally), is the Tribes’ self proclaimed “anointed one”, The Apostle. A former protestant, Spriggs broke from THE Church when his church opted to forfeit Sunday services in lieu of the Super Bowl. He branched off, ministering to his smitten followers, evangelizing to the throngs of "lost”. He began to hold services referred to as Critical Masses in which he ranted about the flaws of the other denominations, point the arrogant finger of accusation, condemning others for not being true believers. Spriggs, himself, was well on his way to becoming what he despised; a minister who plenty might claim is as misguided as those he had been repelled by.

To this day, I remain confused as to how anyone has the conscience to ascertain, let alone dictate, the quality or validity of someone else’s religious experience or spiritual relationship with God. What I am not confused about is what a cult is. Having grown up on the dismal dregs of the many cults that formed or bloomed in the sixties and seventies, that in turned spurred an aggressive counter active anti-cult movement that swelled well into the eighties and nineties, I am hardly ignorant of the mark their apostles, their profits, their leaders left on an entire generation.

Jim Jones. November 18, 1978 is a day I will not be able to erase from my consciousness as long as I live. The sexually, politically and religiously confounded founder of the Peoples Temple directed the mass suicide of 909 members of his Rainbow Family and the murder of 200 of their children. As frustrated as I was by parental authority guised as guidance at the bucking age of 15 and as difficult as I may have made things for my mother, she did not--bless her-- lead me to the slaughter by thrusting a Dixie Cup of cyanide laced grape Kool-Aid down my throat. As much as we may not have seen eye-to-eye, I never once thought her out of her blooming mind as I can well imagine many of those my age living in fear in Jonestown must have thought of their elders. I could not comprehend the horror that was unfolding on the television day after day, for months on end. The sheer lunacy behind what would become one of the largest mass suicides in history when all the bodies had been counted was deeply scarring for someone so young, sensitive and impressionable.

The Manson Family rampage a decade earlier was duly horrific, but didn't compare to the scale and breath of Jonestown. Charles Manson, the 77 year old once scientologist wannabe, criminal-songwriter-“guru” leader of the macabre Helter Skelter Manson Family whose compositions have since been covered by Guns N' Roses, White Zombie and Marilyn Manson, remains alive and well thanks to the generous contribution of our tax dollars.

Vernon Wayne Howell, known to his Waco Branch Davidians as the “Prophet” David Koresh, was the Stud-For-God who annulled the marriages of his followers in order to enjoy sexual access to all the women, or wives. Females 14 years and up appeared to be free game. Koresh justified molesting minors because Texas law legalizes the "marriage" of 14 year old girls whose parents have consented. He, enabled by the emasculated husbands and fathers, prompted the 1993 murder/suicide of 76 adults and 17 children when the Feds came a-knocking at the door of his Mt. Carmel harem.

Not all cults end in violence. Victor Wierwille, ultra-control monger, founded the still thriving but seriously homophobic and anti-Semitic gun-toting affiliation known as The Way that swallowed many a teenager away from their parents, including my friend Bruce. Sun Myung Moon, the egomaniac meglo zillionaire who is a self ordained reincarnation of Christ-- but federally indicted tax fraud and conspirator-- now in his 90's leads the sex-scandalized, homophobic, business empire that is the Unification Church, home to the “Moonies”.

A cult differs from a congregation slightly in that it pertains to a flock of converts, (often perceived as will-less if not absolutely mindless), who become devoutly enamored and fatally subservient, (thus, the legitimacy of the previously stated commonly held perception), to a charismatic leader displaying totalitarian control, advocating controversial beliefs and/or enforcing questionable rituals.

Although members of the Twelve Tribes don't view themselves as a cult, their doctrine is based on one man’s interpretation of the Old Testament and his socio-political opinions. A man—three times divorced—who was reported in 2001 by the Boston Herald to have received a "vision" from God in 1971 while sunbathing on a California beach, to be specific. I would imagine that divine callings, let alone spiritual visions, were plentiful along the California coastline during that psychedelic drug infused era.

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As with anyone who doesn't conform to the norm, who chooses instead a path outside the "box", communes, cults and even religious congregations can be similarly scrutinized, unjustly boycotted and illegally harassed. As would be expected, by the early ‘80’s, The Community, as they came to call themselves, had been accused of psychological abuse, as well as child abuse and kidnapping that culminated in a nationally publicized police raid resulting in the removal of 112 minors. The children were returned that same day when the raid was declared unconstitutional. All assault charges against Spriggs' right-hand man, Charles “Eddie” Wiseman (Hakam),were eventually dropped on account of technicalities that continued to delay his right to a speedy trail.

Those technicalities, it should be noted, consisted--in part at least-- of the public defender, Jean Swantko, converting within months of her being assigned the case. She married Wiseman within the year. Swantko, who died of cancer in 1990, had since litigated on behalf of The Community in subsequent charges that eventually consisted also of child custody and labor charges. Yet, despite her stellar service to The Community, her husband allowed her to be posthumously slandered by Spriggs and others who claimed she had died (at the age of 76) in lingering agony as God’s punishment for having vocalized a complaint against Spriggs ten years prior the onset of her illness.

If that isn’t evidence enough to differentiate Twelve Tribes as a cult versus a religious sect, the testimony of her son Zeb Wiseman who left The Community shortly after her death offers further support to the allegation. As with The Way—and even the Amish actually, Twelve Tribes reportedly shuns dissents and defectors by promoting internal “mark and avoid" policies which instruct followers to close off all communication with individuals whose practices cause division within the collective or with those who have selected to leave the collective. All those Zeb grew up with, his siblings and even his own father, ceased all relations with him leaving him isolated to survive on his own in a foreign world. Others have since followed in his footsteps and his testimony is now but a single voice in what over the years has become a chorus.

The dirty laundry they’ve exposed depicts Super God Squad-er Spriggs as living high on the hog thanks to the toil and sweat of his followers. Oh, and their “tithes” as well. Upon acceptance into The Community, followers forfeit all personal property and assets to live a communal life of physical labor. The Community owns a conglomerate of incorporated enterprises, the least of which is the Common Sense Farm product line of body products. Spriggs, defectors claim, has become a reclusive globetrotting jetsetter who controls the Tribes' assets and who resides in private luxury estates. Of course, those still living within The Community claim otherwise.

Even if these accusations were accurate, he wouldn't be the first religious leader to do so. There are many such who have received social and political endorsement, in fact.

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It is undeniable that The Community has suffered from much misunderstanding and illegal harassment. Corporeal punishment, regrettably, is not illegal and custodial disputes are not reserved for cults or religious congregations. And, all families, clubs, groups have their bones futilely hidden in closets. Every camp will have its deserters.

As awkward as the public feels about that which is different and as ugly as any controversy can be, inhabitants of The Community appear to be a happy and peaceful lot--including the women with whom I have the pleasure to interact. Despite what they could very well view as persecution, The Community still chooses to contribute positively towards society by providing wholesome products and services and administering to those in need.

They loiter on the periphery of concerts offering their magically restorative Mate to those strung out and hung over. They open their doors and their hearths every Sabbath (Friday at sunset) inviting those who might be interested in learning more about them and their lifestyle. Participants in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, (WWOOF), they feed and shelter volunteers who are interested in apprenticing on an organic farm.

Unlike many doomsday pulpit spitting, bible thumping confrontational fundamentalists, aside from their newsletter (the Free Paper) with the typical homophobic, non free choice rant of condemnation which we are free to read or not read as we choose they, as "apostles", take a subtler evangelistic approach than their red faced tight fisted brethren. I choose to practice tolerance even if they do not to and I am a firm believer that we are each entitled to our own opinions and the freedom to pursue individual happiness. Though their religious and socio-political beliefs differ drastically with mine, their overall lifestyle is one that I can appreciate in today’s wasteful, slothful, overweight, glutinous world. They are a small cluster of religious people, seeking to coexist, to live simple lives among each other’s love within the folds of our secular community.

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Driving up the hill towards the Farm to retrieve my friend who had just completed a two week stint as a Morning Star WWOOFER, I wondered how he had made out and what his impressions would be. He is a full blooded Sioux-Shoshone, but reservation tribal life isn’t what it used to be. I was, frankly, surprised I hadn't heard from him sooner. The welcoming stone entry gateway and palm lined driveway leads to a clapboard farmhouse, barn, shed, and yurt set in a comfortable cluster beneath an expansive canopy of shade trees. I waited as his new friends, including full grown men and children, ran to bid him goodbye with sustained hugs and sincere joy. He smiled back, glowing.

I knew instantly that he had found a peace there he hadn’t ever known before. It was written on his face, on his gestures, in the way he walked, in his breathing. I asked him how he had liked it and he beamed that he loved it, especially the food. He raved about how incredibly friendly and helpful everyone was, how respectful everyone was to one another--especially the children towards all adults. He admitted that he wondered if living with this nationally diversified tribe was his destiny.

Without a prompt from me, he confessed that the primary thing holding him back from jumping in the baptismal waters wasn’t the religion or apostlistic fanaticism as I had thought it would be; it was the way they treat their women, how he would be expected to treat them. That wasn’t the first time I gave silent praise to his mother for a job well done.

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Ruled by an international Apostolic Council, the Twelve Tribes is a confederation of religious communities operating as a nonprofit in more than 50 countries. They are nonvoting taxpayers who have a visible presence at many local farmers markets and who operate the infamous Yellow Deli chain of natural food restaurants and cafes. Warmly decorated with natural wood and paint pigments, homemade curtains, macramé and handmade furniture surrounding indoor and outdoor fireplaces, both Vista’s Yellow Deli and Valley Center’s Yellow Deli and Farm Stand serve a wholesome, homegrown organic and free range fare. The bread alone is worth the outing.

Manson, by the way, is up for parole again in May. Having been denied parole 11 times previously, the gruesome guru who in 2009 was found with a cell phone from which he had made several calls is unlikely to ever feel freedom again in his lifetime.

PICTURES courtesy of Morning Star Ranch Farm and Twelve Tribes websites.

Comments

MackZender March 11, 2012 @ 11:13 a.m.

As a recovering Mormon, I can identify some with this article. Your writing style is refreshing. San Diego's own, the Heaven's Gate suicide, didn't make your list.

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Ruth Newell March 11, 2012 @ 3:04 p.m.

Ah, forgot that one. Think there was another huge event in Africa in the late nineties as well. I stopped watching TV, and reading/listening to the news in 1980 and that may have been why some didn't make my list. Not because I didn't learn of them eventually but the intentional avoidance of the details and imagines in particular has buffered my consciousness. For me, it was a sanity thing. I just can't handle the constant onslaught of the despicable and incomprehensible. If that makes sense. Thanks for reading, McZ and congrats again on your win with that controversial piece of fiction.

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Ruth Newell March 12, 2012 @ 2:34 p.m.

Read up on Heaven's Gate last night--now I try really hard not to judge and call names because, well, I've been the victim to both. All my nieces used to call me "weird" and I'd have to remind them that I was just "different". (They now use the phrase themselves, which I find very amusing.) Anyway--some of these cults beg the question--not so much whether the leaders sane (raised eyebrow) but whether their followers were. I have always been fascinated (and sickened by) MOB psychology. I was very surprised to see that a son of one of the original Star Trek stars was among the dead. I mean, seriously?

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 7:11 p.m.

Being different is one thing. Hurting babies and children is another. Babies also get hit in the Tribes, for things like "resisting an adult." In the Tribes, all members have to follow the leader. And many do, because they do like being together in many ways, and don't want to be banished "into the world" from whence they came. The leader is a whack job for sure, but it's a good point you raise; so were we for joining and following him, although when you join, it's a gradual subtle process of indoctrination. You really can be brainwashed.

None

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 7:03 p.m.

I am hoping someday, they will stop hitting the children and babies. I lived in the Twelve Tribes communities for over 8 months. They are taught that if they make the children very very obedient on the first command. Then, Yahshua (Jesus) will be able to come back (for them), after they in the future are able to raise up 3 successive generations of increasingly pure children. These children will give birth to "the Male Child" the 144,000 virgin male evangelists mentioned in the Bible Book of Revelation.

"If our children can't learn obedience, Yahshua (Jesus) will not return." (Spriggs) CHILD PUNISHMENT is frequent and painful for even the slightest attitude or foolishness. Corporal punishment may be applied by any adult member with love. “The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.”” (October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5) “Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.” (No date – Execution of Justice – Page 1)

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quillpena March 11, 2012 @ 8:04 p.m.

As a kid, I remember my mom warning me to stay away from the Moonies when I eventually became a teenager. "The last thing I want is one of my boys turning into a goddamn Moony. I'd rather you became a Hare Krishna first."

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Ruth Newell March 11, 2012 @ 8:23 p.m.

hahahahahaaaa --"first"--hahahahahahaaaaaaa

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Twister March 12, 2012 @ 2:45 p.m.

Ok, I'm not gonna say that you hit this one out of the park, but with a little editing (typos/misspelling, some structure, some bridging) and rewriting, it would be in that league. Third base? The quality is definitely there.

SO close!

The Reader should nurture you, and show some appreciation for your contributions.

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Ruth Newell March 12, 2012 @ 3:16 p.m.

OK I THINK I caught all the errors--feel free--always--to point them out to me. I really do not mind as I'm often too close to the piece to catch them right away. I have begun reworking it but have to fly--will take your advise and rewrite. Thank you for reading and for comment. I appreciate the guidance. And the encouragement (read, push) to be better.

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Twister March 12, 2012 @ 3:54 p.m.

Yep, I AM pushing! I will be glad to offer some editing assistance at your request--on a specific project which you have proofed yourself. Watch spelling in particular. For example, in this post your wrote "advise" when you may have meant "advice." Spell-checkers won't catch that kind of thing . . .

I have a bad habit of adding letters ("and" when I meant "an,") and dropping others.

This kind of stuff is mere detail; many people who may never "learn" to write as well as you are perfeckt spelers, so be consoled.

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nan shartel March 12, 2012 @ 5:54 p.m.

it's Twister on the job!!!!

wait...u don't need one

i on the other hands am over at my blog trying to form good Twister habits as we speak...lol

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Twister March 12, 2012 @ 3:56 p.m.

There was less than a handful of errers.

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Ruth Newell March 12, 2012 @ 11:06 p.m.

More--caught them when I went back. Most of the "Manson's" were just mason's. Anyway, worked on it a bit tonight. Hope it reads better now. Thanks for the push.

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nan shartel March 12, 2012 @ 3:07 p.m.

wow!!!

my first husband has lost visitation with his grandchildren due to one of these kinds of cults in Idaho

i'll never understand this kind of fundamental fanaticism..scary stuff Roody

fab blog!!!

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Ruth Newell March 12, 2012 @ 3:21 p.m.

Well, honestly, people suffer the loss of visitation for other reasons besides cult. My very French family effectively barricaded my father from my mother and us. Then again, my father didn't really fight to get to us either as he didn't really want to be a father. I am glad--to this day--that my family did that for me and my siblings. Personally. Congregations can be just a invasive/protective as these cults can be. That's the point I was trying to make--doesn't always take fundamental fanaticism. That things for which they are accused of--criticized for--happen OUTSIDE cults, too. I--personally--feel Twelve Tribes is the LEAST offensive of many I've come across as they live quiet productive lives in service to the community--which is way more than I can say about so many others. Spriggs aside.

Thanks SO MUCH Nan for reading and for your continued support of my writing.

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nan shartel March 12, 2012 @ 3:35 p.m.

Y/W

my ex was told he could only see them if he joined the church and visited at church...that's cult thinking don't u agree

i was as a child removed from a toxic home and am the better 4 it...having nothing to do about religion at all

12 Tribes sound nice except 4 the woman's equality thingie

i was a Bahai 4 a short period of time and it was the truth of how they didn't walk their talk on woman's equality at the highest level of their hierarchy that made me re-consider the faith as a whole

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Ruth Newell March 12, 2012 @ 11:10 p.m.

One of the recent food articles was about the Yellow Deli and inspired me to finish this article I started last summer.

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richzombie March 13, 2012 @ 8:57 p.m.

wow this is an amazing read - thank you. And it is truly great to see others commenting on the actual writing help like that is just a wonderful thing- i can't offer that kind of help that's for sure lol -really all of it is a wow

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Ruth Newell March 14, 2012 @ 11:23 a.m.

Glad you enjoyed it, Z. And, help is good as are reminders to slow down, not be sloppy, and be the best writer I can be.

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MarkHaszard March 16, 2012 @ 9:36 a.m.

The Cult word gets overused,but in some cases it is appropriate.

The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic. The Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses as an example is not benevolent and won't let you leave their organization in peace. If they try to ruin your reputation and break up your family for trying to get out then they are a cult! Whenever you surrender your logic and reason to anyone who asks you to trust them because they know better and to please donate generously, it's a cult. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.... - Danny Haszard

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Ruth Newell March 16, 2012 @ 2:18 p.m.

Thanks for reading and commenting, MarkHaszard. Sounds like you've had some experience in that realm.

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vermonter Feb. 1, 2013 @ 4:19 a.m.

Great writeup, but wrong info on Jean Swantko. It was Hakam's wife Mary that died of cancer in 1990. When wondering why God didn't heal her from cancer, someone claimed that she had spoken against the prophet Spriggs who goes by Yoneq. Swantko married Hakam later after becoming his defense attorney in his child abuse case. Swanko is alive and well and taking care of the tribes legal business. There is a very strong and baffling spiritual presence within this group by which many have been deceived into thinking that it's from God, but it is not. There is a great wresting of scripture that takes things out of context causing the followers to believe teachings which are disproven in other areas of the Bible. This is a dangerous sect of deceived people being led by a man that believes that he is the Elijah prophet.

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Nabashalam Feb. 8, 2014 @ 9:08 a.m.

I am glad you caught and corrected her on this... I was in from 97-2004 and met both dynamic duos... Elbert and Marsha, Eddie and Jean... LOL! And Eddies kids... Haven't hear from Zeb in awhile but seems like Luke Wisemen who has a family now of his own who has left is speaking out now...

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couragehome May 28, 2013 @ 6:16 a.m.

Twelve Tribes Community Communal Cult

17+ hour work days while standing most of the time.

All believe and do what the founder Gene Spriggs has taught.

All of Christianity and the Christian Jesus is condemned as

demonic, and the satanic scarlet whore of the Bible book of Revelation.

Birthdays, Christmas and other holidays are not celebrated.

Children are frequently hit with balloon sticks by any adult

member for any form of disobedience or “foolishness.”

Childrens toys, dolls, and stuffed animals are not allowed.

Claim Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. deserved to die.

Claim black people should still be slaves to whites unless they join.

Claim to be the only people forgiven and being saved by God.

Claim to be the only people who have the Holy Spirit.

Claim to be the only people who will bring Jesus back to earth by

eventually birthing 144,000 celibate male evangelists and being

perfectly obedient to God for 49 years.

Claim to be the only place on earth where anyone can be saved by God.

Founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs “Yoneq” is unquestioned Prophet Pope.

Home births and home circumcisions are required.

Childbirth pain is God’s will and is not to be lessened in any way.

Males must wear fur-face beards, short ponytails, and untucked shirts.

Medical and dental neglect is common with no health insurance.

Medications of any kind are generally not allowed.

Non-Tribes reading material of any kind is not allowed.

Shaving any part of the male of female body is not allowed.

Telephone calls to non-member family and friends is by permission.

Television, radio, personal music devices and internet aren’t allowed.

Women are not allowed in any leadership positions.

You can leave, but you’re damned to Death for 1000+ years or eternal Hell.

You’re rarely be able to visit friends and family “in the world.”

Your whole life is scrutinized and completely controlled everyday.

“It is through many trials and tribulations that we enter the kingdom.”

“You just need to die, and give up your rotten sticking life in the world.”

“Where did you learn to think anyway? In the world?”

“You just need to die and take off your head (personal reasoning),

and take on the mind of the Body (Twelve Tribes).

“You just need to die, and receive your brothers and let them handle you.” (If the Twelve Tribes is not a cult, then what is a cult?)

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Nabashalam Feb. 8, 2014 @ 9:09 a.m.

Great list! I have to borrow this! Hope you don't mind! :)

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couragehome June 5, 2013 @ 6:46 p.m.

You'll really have no idea of what life is really like in the Tribes, unless you join - "enter the covenant" and live there for a year as a member. There is much talk of love and unity, but when it gets right down to it, it's about uniformity. "We do it this way..." "We dress this way." "We raise our children this way." "We eat these foods." It's always about "we" because "me" "has died in the waters of baptism." The "me" has gone from being free to bondage or death. Death in a covering called love and unity. But the real name is uniformity. "You are to come when you are called and go when you are sent." "You are no longer your own, you have been bought with a price." (And, you shall work for free!)

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Nabashalam Feb. 8, 2014 @ 9:13 a.m.

Before you enter their "doors" you must "cut off your head" Capitulate and leave your former self outside the camp. Even your speech! You'll learn a new language...cult speak and can no longer use any kind of slang or even local colloquialisms! Total control even to how many pieces of toilet tissue you are to use per wiping... No crap! LOL!

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alleyslink Aug. 8, 2013 @ 10:24 p.m.

12 tribes day: god gruel work, god gruel sleep rinse repeat

12 tribes plan: raise a generation of children so nice the government comes and kills them, then god sees what has happened, smites the government and resurrects his "bride"

I have never seen people so unmoved when the sing and dance, zero joy. Somebody is getting rich off all the work they do, because they sure aren't spending money feeding their members. Their plan, detailed above, is the stupidest plan I have ever heard, luckily for my daughter they only PRETEND to believe it.

My family and i recently became homeless and in a desperate attempt to save us, my common law wife, my daughter and I joined their community. Racist, homophobic, anti-women, child beating, conformist clowns. I am not a christian, so it couldn't work out, but my family is still there.

If you know anything about history, and you believe in the bible, written by the romans and the jews the two groups who crucified jesus, i don't know what to tell you (without being rude). Jesus was a revolutionary, that's why they killed him, he was not a conformist. Keep your flying pizza monster and give me back my family.

Enough about me, I liked your article. Thank you for writing it so I could vent in your comments section.

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YOUBET Sept. 6, 2013 @ 12:49 p.m.

What a twisted interpretation of Scripture and Church history in the search to create a safe self satisfying egocentric lifestyle.There were several like minded groups in the Bay Area in the seventies that talked the same stuff.Some were dressed like the pioneers they all tend to like costumes of a sort.Had some long conversations with a few and outside of the beliefs of the group they are far from being spiritual.Thanks for the article it helps people from getting ensnared in groups that look innocent but are really a sample of the darker side of mankind.Women play a very important role in Scripture the New Testament is full proof of that..

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couragehome Sept. 21, 2013 @ 10:15 a.m.

In 2000 in Connecticut a couple belonging to the group pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and cruelty for disciplining their children with a 30-inch (76-centimeter) fiberglass rod. All parents i've know in the Tribes love their children, but the Teachings and child-discipline is very very strict, i'd say severe and because of the frequency of it for trivial matters and because "blue wounds show you love your child" it's abusive. Yoneq could wake up tomorrow morning and change this, and all the members would have "to take on the mind of the Anointing." But it's not likely to happen.

I guess all this makes me appreciate non-religious people and science, because the whole world of religion can become as dark and murky at times as organized crime. It's sad. Some people are looking for genuine love, and friendships, and to know God, and sometimes religious groups take advantage of this. When I lived as a member in the Tribes, I had to go along with everything. Everything. Whatever was decided, that's what you believe, that's what you think, that's what you tell others is the truth, whether you really believe it or not. Personally, I don't think it's right to worship Jesus/Yahshua, but of course they do that and bow down to bread and wine weekly. If they'd lighten up even a little on the child punishments and get even an extra hour or two sleep each night, it would be a far more healthy lifestyle, but they still would be taught they are the only ones pleasing to God.

I still have love in my heart for the Twelve Tribes. It was better when we simply called ourselves the Communities. It definitely became more cultic with the Twelve Tribes label and branding. A big mistake. They will not "bring about the end of this wicked age." Humans have been here for a very long time, and are likely to remain here a very long time, regardless when Jesus returns. The Tribes won't bring him back, no matter how harshly they discipline their children to try to produce 144,000 male celibate evangelists ("the Male Child"). The Tribes worldwide membership is about 4000 and half the children leave when they get old enough. It could take as many as 300,000 adult members to get enough male children to fulfill Yoneq's prophecy. Will take a very long time before "The Race" begins to be a perfectly obedient People for 49 years and have Jesus return on year 50. I surmise by then, the Teachings will change, when Jesus doesn't return when they think he should. The Teachings will change to protect the image of the group. Because the group image is far more important than any individual member or individual health and happiness. I wish it could be the life of love they talk about. But as one brother recently told me, "We're not really here to make the world a better place."

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couragehome Sept. 22, 2013 @ 11:58 a.m.

The home circumcisions need to stop for the babies and uncircumcised teens who move in. Think about how barbaric this is, and unsafe. One teenager tried to circumcise himself, because he didn't want someone else doing it to him. When will these religions finally move beyond various shades of blood sacrifice. They talk so much about the Apostle Paul/Shaul, well, he said circumcision doesn't matter at all! The reasons it matters in the Tribes and the reason they do it at home is all because the infallible pope Apostle and Anointing Yoneq (Gene Spriggs) said that's how it would be. As far as I'm concerned all the Abrahamic religions haven't done much for the world. What do you think? When does freedom end and illegal abuse begin? Who gets to decide?

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couragehome Sept. 28, 2013 @ 8:21 a.m.

TWELVE TRIBES CHILD PUNISHMENT is frequent and painful for even the slightest attitude or foolishness. Corporal punishment may be applied by any adult member with love. “The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.” (October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5) “Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.” (Execution of Justice – Page 1)

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 6:35 p.m.

The NSPCC has called for an investigation into the practices of a controversial Christian sect in Britain after an Independent investigation revealed allegations of physical child abuse. The children’s charity is calling on Devon County Council and Devon and Cornwall Police to examine the activities of the Twelve Tribes community at Stentwood Farm near Honiton, after the group defended its right to chastise its children with a willow cane in The Independent earlier this month. A former member of the sect, a worldwide movement founded 40 years ago in the US, has now come forward with allegations of widespread physical child abuse and use of the willow cane at the Devon farm. It has also emerged that a complaint about the community was made by a woman claiming to be a former member in 2005 and was investigated by local authorities. The call from the NSPCC comes after authorities in Germany took 40 children at the Twelve Tribes community in Bavaria away from their parents and placed them in foster homes after a journalist filmed six children being beaten with a total of 83 strokes of the cane. “Following the Independent story we have liaised with Devon County Council’s children’s services to… ensure that an appropriate assessment of the concerns are undertaken,” said Phillip Noyes, director of strategy and development at the NSPCC. Vicki, who says she is a former member of the community and spent six months at Stentwood Farm and did not want to reveal her full name, told The Independent: “There wasn’t a day that went by while I was there that children weren’t beaten with the rod. I beat my own son because that is what the group taught me to do.” Children were left “black and blue” according to Vicki, and parents were told by community elders that children had “to bend over” and be “hit on the bare bottom with the stick”. She added later: “You couldn’t do it without leaving stripes.”

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 6:36 p.m.

continued: Vicki says that after leaving the community she made a complaint to Devon County Council in February 2005. Her complaint included allegations of child circumcision and home births carried out without medical supervision. Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed the allegations had been investigated but “no criminal proceedings were started against any individual”. Devon County Council refused to comment on whether an investigation would be carried out in light of The Independent’s investigation, but a spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “We can confirm that Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon County Council are working together to thoroughly review the recent information received about the welfare of children in the Honiton area.” The Independent has also seen a document which purports to be a child training manual apparently produced by the sect. It states: “Parents are to chastise by using a rod or balloon stick that can cause stripes… marks like those left by a whip.” The 2004 Children’s Act, which came into force in January 2005, clarified the defence of reasonable chastisement for parents who are charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, wounding or grievous bodily harm, or cruelty to a child. Any hitting that causes bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches is punishable with up to five years in jail. The Twelve Tribes sect refused to comment for this article but Jonathan Stagg, an elder in the Honiton community, previously said it was the group’s “fundamental right” to use the willow cane and that the community was “still in the realm of English law”. It has also emerged that the sect, which believes homosexual behaviour is immoral and has been accused of anti-Semitism, runs Common Ground, a popular meeting point and café which has operated at Glastonbury Festival as recently as 2011. Vicki alleges the café was an important revenue stream for the sect and a source of new members. A Glastonbury Festival spokesman refused to comment and the group is still included on the festival’s website. However, The Independent understands the group, which rents a space from organisers at the Somerset site, is now unlikely to return to the festival in 2014.

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 6:37 p.m.

The group’s Common Loaf bakery, which is run from Stentwood Farm, also operates at numerous farmers’ markets in the region and ran a stall at the Devon County Show this year. The NSPCC spokesman added: “We’re grateful to The Independent for highlighting this issue and bringing it to our attention. Caning of children or the threat of caning is a completely unacceptable method of disciplinary action to take with any child.” Case study: ‘You are taught  to hit them on the bare bottom’ Vicki says she had been in contact with the Twelve Tribes community near Honiton for about a year and a half before she made the decision to move to Stentwood Farm with her seven-year-old son in 2004. Looking back, she regrets the decision. “Those kids are beaten for anything and everything; they are taught to be 100 per cent obedient. If that means a child is told to sit still and they move then, by the community’s standard you then have to take that child out and beat it,” she said. continued: “I beat my own son as that’s what I was taught to do by the community elders. You don’t know this when you join, but you are taught to hit them on the bare bottom with the stick… it’s their doctrine”. Vicki said a boy with autism “got it worse than anybody else”. She said the group beat their children to “cleanse” their “conscience of the sin of disobedience”. Vicki claims she left the group after six months and now considers it a “cult”. When she told them of her reservations, she said, “they flew off the handle at me and told me I was full of demons. I came to realise this isn’t how Jesus would behave if someone came to him saying they were low and that the Twelve Tribes aren’t really Christian at all”. Vicki says she left the sect after smuggling a phone into her room and calling for a friend to collect her. She now lives in the north of England and attends a mainstream church.

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 6:50 p.m.

They can drive their Peacemaker buses around the world, and sail their Peacemaker ship up and down the coast of the USA to get recruits to "come home with us," but no matter how many people they recruit, most will leave when they get a taste of cult communal living and having their lives and children controlled all the time. Most of the Twelve Tribes original members have long since left as well. Most of the Tribes young men, also end up leaving. Sometimes when young people want to leave or try to escape, they are put under house arrest, or sent to a community overseas, so they can;'t escape to relatives who "live in the world." The main problem with this cult is the Apostle leader, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, AKA "Gene" and Yoneq". He is accountable to no one. Members are taught he is the Prophet, the Elijah, and the Anointing. He wrote their Teachings. If you wonder why myself and others call this a cult, it's because it's abusive in many ways, like 17+ hour workdays, hitting your children, and being taught crap like black people should still be slaves to white people, until they join the Tribes. Jews also remain cursed for killing Messiah. In fact, if you haven't "received a Twelve Tribes Sent One" and joined their community, they think you're cursed also. I'm just scratching the surface. I still like many people I met in the Tribes, and the life also has its good points, but the bad far outweighs the good. At this point, I wish they would just let their children be children, get better education, and not make them think they'll go to Death or the Lake of Fire if they choose to leave the cult when they get older. And, in the meantime, stop hitting them so much!

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couragehome Sept. 29, 2013 @ 7:18 p.m.

I wish the Twelve Tribes could be the happy beautiful life they talk about in their Freepapers. Where people do really love each other. Sadly for now, it's more about obedience and following Apostle Yoneq, the Anointing, the Elijah. He and his wife Marsha "Ha'emeq" have plenty of money for travel, shopping, and medical bills. The "sheep" members go without. It's really a life of slave labor. Try it out sometime.

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couragehome Oct. 1, 2013 @ 1:07 a.m.

BLACK AMERICANS CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT is condemned as evil. BLACK SLAVERY is taught, for dark-skinned people who do not join the Tribes.

“What a marvelous opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations. A good master would work by the sweat of his brow. If his slaves were lazy and disrespectful he would beat them, which is what he was supposed to do.” (Cham, Island Pond, 3/19/91)

“Striving for civil rights is of the world – it is disorder to the established social order. In the social order of the world there is distinction between black and white. We shouldn’t try to change it and mess it up. It is going against something fundamental. Cham (blacks) should have been a slave all through history.” (Unraveling the Races of Man)

“If the slaves were mistreated, it was the fault of the slave. Even if the master was unreasonable the slave was to bear up under it. This was Cham’s (black people’s) discipline. For 4000 years Israel had slaves….Cham was a servant (slave) to Shem. This is the Word. You can’t break the Word. The more men try to liberate Cham (black people), the worse he gets. It is more destructive for man to try to redeem himself, changing social order. The three races are to be distinct.” (Unraveling the Races of Man)

“Niger means black. When people first started saying this word, it wasn’t bad, but it became a curse word, having a bad connotation. Before civil rights black men would say, ‘Yes, boss man’ in the south. Yes man, no man. This was respect. We need respect in people. We must beat respect into our children. Cham must get this respect in them. These blacks during the pre-civil rights time, were really slaves – they had respect for people. They got along well because they were submissive…” [Unraveling the Races of Man]

“Cham is no longer, to his detriment, slaves or servants to Shem. This is a terrible thing, a great deception. It is of the anti-Christ to think Cham is emancipated when he really is not emancipated.” [Cham, Island Pond 6/26/90]

“This is what Cham should be like in the world – like black nannies – this is sort of what they were to do. They were to be helper to Shem. It was to be a natural thing. There is nothing wrong with this. Civil Rights, forced equality is anti-Christ, trying to change the heart – it can’t be done.” [Unraveling the Races of Man]

“The politicians and Martin Luther King have taken the provision away (a place in the “Nations”). There is no equal for the hatred Martin Luther King had for the black people.” [Cham, Island Pond 3/19/91]

“Martin Luther King was filled with every evil spirit there is to say Cham doesn’t have to serve Shem. All manner of evil filled that man.” [Cham, Island Pond 3/19/91]

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Nabashalam Feb. 8, 2014 @ 9:17 a.m.

Courage Home... Do I know you??? You've done a great job here!!!

Keep up the great work... Hey you should post something here about the Raid in Germany and the one that's going to happen in England!

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Ruth Newell Oct. 22, 2013 @ 12:52 p.m.

Wow--just seeing all these recent comments. The authors don't receive notification that a message has been left and I haven't logged on for quite a while. Firstly, thanks very much for reading and commenting Vermonter, Couragehome, and YOUBET and Alleyslink. Secondly, thank you for all the additional information, and for sharing your personal stories. Couragehome, I DO understand the gentle and gradual brainwashing bit. Their lifestyle alone has its lure for folks like myself. The rest, however, I could never wrap my mind around.

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Suzy_Hemstreet Nov. 24, 2013 @ 1:59 p.m.

"The scandal surrounding him concerns his private life. Along with homosexuality and racial equality (both of which go against Old Testament teaching, the cult claims) the greatest sin in the TT’s eyes is adultery, which is punishable by banishment. According to former members, however, the rules abruptly changed when Spriggs discovered that his younger fourth wife, Marsha, had enjoyed illicit affairs with at least two young ‘disciples’. Perhaps fearing a mass defection, Spriggs ordered her transgressions to be covered up, it is claimed. When the truth emerged, in an email from one of Marsha’s lovers, he forgave her."

From the Daily Mail based on verfified information from both lovers who have now defected.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2444736/Devon-cult-canes-children-cleanse-sins-Mothers-testimony-lifts-lid-mysterious-commune.html#ixzz2lbLLDy6h Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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Suzy_Hemstreet Nov. 24, 2013 @ 2:09 p.m.

From my few encounters with young people who were born and raised in the Twelve Tribes. They have told me first hand that around 80-90 percent of the young people are all leaving worldwide. Especially since 2008 when Spriggs wife's affairs were revealed and nothing was done about it, when many other rank and file people were sent out of the group with no money or education for much lesser offenses. And Mr Spriggs continues to write more laws that are not in found in the scripture. I am told that they are referred to as "the Traditions". I have spoke with a few girls younger than 18 who have worked in the Yellow Deli in Vista who claim that they worked 16-20 hour shifts. I believe this is exploitation since these girls are denied a proper education and they have to marry a boy if they make out with him.

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SeattleDan Dec. 22, 2013 @ 7:50 p.m.

Someone I love lived there, at last report. I miss her and think about her... worry about her, her family. I'd just like her to know she has somewhere to go. I sent a letter but no response. I just packed an envelope with other envelopes and stamps today, no letter. It will go out tomorrow. It hurts me to read all this crap about "the community." I view extreme criticism of this degree with a healthy measure of skepticism, because the Church-world with all their conflicting sects, eat their own incessantly. (not our author, but some of the comments). Motives should always be questioned. The definition of a "cult" is "the church across town that believes differently than mine does." Anyhow, she deserves a good deal, having already gotten the short straw, most of her life. Still, despite all challenges, she perseveres. I wish I had the power and freedom to have been more useful back then. She's from a pioneering A.A. family up here, and has a severely disabled daughter in a home. If you know her, just give her this name. She'll know. Ya'all be blessed. As someone stated above, please remember not to conflate conformity with righteousness. If there is a Diety in charge, It's not running a costume party.

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