Members who had been divorced were instructed to seek reconciliation with their original mates whether they were in the church or not. Failing that, they were to remain unmarried and celibate for the rest of their natural lives, or until their former spouses died. Members who had remarried after a divorce were commanded to separate and, unless or until their first partners died, to remain separate. That many of these members had children, were happy with each other, and that their divorces and, in many cases, their remarriages had occurred prior to their discovery the truth and the way was regarded as inconsequential.
Members who objected to their families being so
cavalierly torn apart were told that the trials and
tribulations one must suffer in order to prove to God
that they loved him and, thus, to eventually be allowed
entrance to his kingdom, were never very pleasant.
They were then enjoined to remember Abraham's test.
God had commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Most people, if faced with a chore like that would
procrastinate, if indeed they would do it at all, but
Abraham didn't dawdle. He arose early, eager to preform
this grisly task and in so doing, he proved to God that
he loved him.
"God tests and chastises each one of us who come before him to be called his children and this is how God knows we love him," went their rationale. A sizeable number of members bowed to the inscrutable workings of God, abruptly severing their adulterous second marriage relationships with wives, husbands and children, and attempted to abide by these and other dictums pouring out of their new center of the universe, Pasadena, California.
HW also had definite ideas about what constituted
proper Sabbath day dress and decorum. Which is to say,
all men should dress like him, conveniently overlooking
the scriptural admonishment in James 2:1-9 which
specifically forbids prejudice (let alone expulsion)
based on dress. Suits and ties, he maintained, were
absolute prerequisites for the worship of God; men were
to wear them, or else. Those who thought otherwise were
invited by the ministry to leave until they repented of
their rebellious attitudes against God and Herbert.
Women, of course, were to wear loosely fitting
dresses with hemlines no higher than mid calf. Nor
should there be the slightest hint of cleavage above,
lest the Christian gentlemen of the congregation be
overcome with lust.
Furthermore, only harlots and evil women wore
jewelry, or painted their faces with lipstick and rouge.
The example of Jezebel was tentatively proffered as an
example of this vulgar custom and, as most knew (and
those who had any doubts were told), God's women were
not to imitate that decadent queen.
That Jezebel also wore clothing along with her jewels
and lipstick was glossed over though, women were to
remain fully clothed. Few of these weighty spiritual
matters directly impinged upon my lifestyle. I was too
young to wear either make up or suits, but the next
round of revelations hit subtly and hard.
Merely being a good person by secular standards was
not good enough. After all, human righteousness, we were
told, was looked upon by God as filthy rags. That being
the case, there was no real way to gauge one's spiritual
status since it depended almost entirely upon the Lord's
whims rather than human effort. Still, they reasoned,
there was no sense in taking chances. So Herbert and the
clergy became much like believing Pharisees of centuries
past who, in a effort to be as absolutely perfect as
possible, painstakingly created their own set of
"thou shalt nots," as if God had, perhaps,
left some out. These they taught as doctrine.
The Lord's admonition to come out of, and remain separate from, the world became of sudden and immense interest to the ministry of the late nineteen-fifties. In their view, people of the world were likened to pigs living in a filthy sty. Members of the church, on the other hand, were the "called out ones." As such, they were enjoined to put as much distance between themselves and the pig sty as possible, while being constantly reminded that it would have been better for them never to have been born than to have escaped this evil world and the clutches of Satan and become enmeshed again in corruption.
Given a choice then, most brethren would rather have
fallen into a den of rattlesnakes than be likened to
scriptural "dogs returning to their own
vomit," as members who reverted to the world were
As part of the process of coming out of the world,
lay members were encouraged to have as little social
contact with people outside the church as possible. This
included unconverted family members such as parents,
grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.
School activities such as dances, clubs and athletics
were out, as were memberships in the Lions, the Eagles,
the PTA and any labor union. In short, anything the
ministry had no control over, or was not personally in
charge of, was forbidden. The inspired ruling on
employment came next.
After more deep and prayerful study, Herbert said, he
was led by the Lord to understand that God's people were
to be a "separate and peculiar people." God,
in scripture, had said so himself. Military service was,
of course, contravened...due to their long standing
practice of not only working on Saturday's, but of
killing their enemies on that and other days, as well.
He'd also come to understand that there were other ways
brethren might find themselves serving as unwitting cogs
in the political and martial machines of this country,
anyone of which was just as evil. Civil service was one.
Working for the government was, in Herbert's estimation,
a clear cut case of thumbing one's nose at God. Those
who were employed in such capacities were told to
Up until that time, my family had enjoyed a middle
class existence even though the nation was in the midst
of what later came to be known as the "Eisenhower
depression." Jobs were scarce, especially well
paying ones. Nonetheless, with faith in Herbert's
pronouncements, my father quit his job, secure in the
knowledge that God would provide.
Weeks turned into months with unbelievable rapidity.
Having voluntarily quit his job, he was ineligible for
unemployment benefits. With little food in the house and
no money to pay the bills, Mom and Dad grew increasingly
more irritable with each passing day. Eventually my
father went to the minister and demanded an accounting.
He asked why, since he had obeyed their instructions,
God had not provided for him and his family. Their
answer was predictable.
The ministry, then as now, operated out of two cozy
assumptions. God could never make a mistake and hence
they, as his ministers, could not either. Therefore,
there was only one viable possibility. God had not
fulfilled his part of the bargain because "YOU LACK
THE FAITH BROTHER!" Dad was sternly commanded to
take stock of his obviously dwindling spiritual capital
and humbly repent of whatever sin or faithlessness which
was prohibiting the Almighty from providing for him.
He replied, he told me years later, that they were in his opinion, the three stooges ministry, and as such were the most witless and inept sons of bitches he'd come across in all his days, and that furthermore, that "special wisdom" which they all alleged had poured into them on the day they were ordained was nothing more than a bucketful of wishful thinking. He was immediately invited not to attend services until he repented of his blasphemy, an invitation he accepted until the day of his death.
Anytime a member was disfellowshipped it went without
saying they were to be shunned. Such spiritual pariahs
were not to be contacted or corresponded with by any lay
member of the church, and they were to be totally
ignored in the event of chance encounters in public.
Headquarters in Pasadena was immediately notified by the
local minister. These individuals names were then marked
in case they moved and tried to attend church in another
locale where they were not known. Delivery of "The
Good News," the church magazine intended for
and,delivered only to, the baptized, was promptly
discontinued. Any tithes or offerings these outcasts
tendered, however, were gratefully accepted.
My parents separated soon afterwards, due in no small
part, to the continual meddling of the church. They
never reconciled, and what had been a middle class
family of eight became a single parent family of seven
living on welfare.
Our diminished circumstances precluded a once regular
allowance. This was, for me, particularly vexing.
Spinach may have cut it for Popeye, but I required semi
moderate amounts of tar and nicotine in my daily diet.
My trips to the golf course became more infrequent and,
had it not been for the money we were occasionally given
for hot lunches, they would've ceased altogether.