Shalom

I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176


14 June 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany - Part 17

Photo by A. Stahl

Here are all updates I know of as of March until June 12, 2014. I apologize for the delay in disseminating this information.
Note: All words in brackets ([ ]), are mine, and are meant to clarify what is being discussed in German.


Tsokos: So, this phenomenon of abuse [towards children] pervades all cultures, even through all religions. ...There is the cult of the Twelve Tribes, and there you will also find this abuse. So, [really], that runs through all religions and all ethnic affiliations. Of course you have to actually see the individual culture's peculiarities...  [But, t]his is actually rooted in some societies. ...If children are abused on German soil, then our state has a guardianship office to protect these children!
08.02.2014 - Deutschlandfunk: Child Abuse: "cashing in on the suffering of the children"


Synopsis: This is an interview with Nechonah and her parents to find out why she left her court apointed carers.  **I do want to warn that the videos included are very triggering for child abuse survivors as they depict corporal punishment.**  Christian Reip's brother and sister in law are also interviewed about their feelings about their four children being removed from their care.  Alfred Kanth is also interviewed on the situation and how damaging this kind of corporal punishment and mind control damages the children. Ex-members who grew up in the cult describe the damage that these child-rearing practices caused them.  The courts explain that the child-rearing practices of the Twelve Tribes breaks the will of the children in such a way that they are unable to make their own decisions, and are very tentative about any experiences outside the cult.
27.02.2014 - Bayerisches Fernsehen: Prügel oder Heim - Die Odyssee der "Zwölf Stämme"-Kinder - 5:58 minute long video

The Twelve Tribes are mentioned specifically in this article, along with other cults discussing how they harm children and how they function.

...Twelve Tribes. This primitive Christian community was under great criticism in 2013. In two Bavarian towns, the parents of 40 children had provisional custody withdrawn on suspicion of mental and physical abuse. Their children can not attend public schools in order to protect them from the influences of the modern world. The entire population, as it is believed by the members of the sect, that are under the influence of Satan...
02.03.2014 - Huffington Post Deutschland - Dangerous Faith - When children suffer within sects


Members of the Twelve Tribes assembled outside of the local courts to fight for parental custody of their children this afternoon.
10.03.2014 - RegioTV Schwaben - Nordlingen/Klosterzimmern: Cult fights for their children - 26 second Video


Synopsis:
The Twelve Tribes have issued a court case against the district of Donauwörth and the Jugendamt. They allege that they are under house arrest, their private letters to their children were opened (thereby breaching mail confidentiality and trust in the government), copied and analyzed before being forwarded on. There are allegations that the children have been bullied, were shamed by being made to undress and undergo full body examinations for abuse and that their children have been deprived of liberty by being placed in group homes and foster care.
14.03.2014 - Augsburger Allgemeine -  "Locked up, bullied, insulted": Twelve Tribes sue Youth Office
...When some of the children who were removed from the community left government care and returned to their parents, the authorities searched the farm in Klosterzimmern again and removed the children again. This was due, according to Forkel, however, to no new "enforcement order", therefore the children were removed from parental care "without legal basis" and caused the exercise of physical violence in placing them into vehicles. The lawyer evaluates this search and "rescue" action as trespassing and assault.

The charge of coercion also refers to medical examinations of children: Children were made to bare their bare buttocks because the authorities were looking for traces of corporal punishment via reed strikes. According to Forkel this was also done without any legal basis. . .
15.03.2014 - Süddeutsche Zeitung - cult places charge against authorities


...[Christian Reip] was born in the community of the Twelve Tribes and spent his childhood - or what was supposed to be his childhood, here:

    "Actually there is no childhood and youth, which is to be unilaterally destroyed. One must immediately fit into a pattern and must be an adult right away.", said Christian Reip

Thinking on your own and individuality were undesirable, says Christian...

"The world outside was bad, and I was told it was evil and possessed by Satan. Only in the Community can one come to find salvation." ...
26.03.2014 - Bayerischer Rundfunk: Ex Twelve Tribes member - "Childhood is uniformly destroyed"
 This interview discusses Nechonah and her reasons for running away from the group home.  Reasons include the children who were raised without any rules and Nechonah was being yelled at daily. Nechonah's parents are also interviewed and they give their reasons for corporal punishment and attempt to justify it in the eyes of the media.
There is also an interview with Christian Reip, who grew up within the ZS and lived in the commune for 19 years. He is now out of the cult and gives his understanding of them and shares some of his experience with the media. He says that corporal punishment was a daily matter that often started as soon as he woke up every morning.  There is no childhood or imagination allowed in the cult.  Alfred Kanth, of the Donauwörth Jugendamt (CPS), is also quoted.
30.03.2014 - Bayerischer Rundfunk: Konflikt um "Zwölf Stämme" - 13 minute radio interview


...Time and again, children run away from the home or foster parents back to their parents in Klosterzimmern. This includes the twelve-year-old Nechonah... [who] is back with her parents illegally...

The authorities [seem to] find it difficult to retrieve the children again. A renewed search of the spacious grounds of the commune in Klosterzimmern is classified as disproportionate action. Having the community see a little girl removed by police force is something one wants to avoid. The State encounters in dealing with the twelve tribes has apparently reached its limits.
05.04.2014 - Bayerischer Rundfunk, B5 Aktuell - "Twelve Tribes" children, between corporal punishment and police operations


In March, the court ordered a psychological evaluation for the girl. A reviewer should let the courts know whether it is actually the girl's desire to be with her parents [or if she is being coerced]. So far, however, there was only one hearing with the parents in court, as they refuse their court appointed advisory board. A decision by the judge on whether the child may remain on Twelve Tribes grounds or whether a penalty should be meted out has not yet been made.

Meanwhile, [Nechonah] lives with her parents and does not go to school. Her father feared that she could be picked up at school by the police...
14.05.2014 - Bayerischer Rundfunk - The Twelve Tribes 12 year old is still not in custody

...parents have lodged a complaint against the courts in Nördlingen for placing their children in protective custody.  The parents have taken their complaint to the Federal Constitutional Court [in Karlsruhe].
...Alfred Kant from the Jugendamt district offices of Donau-Ries confirmed that he and other officers had been informed several times that the Twelve Tribes members have said they will, by all means possible, prove they have rights to exercise their religious freedom.
19.04.2014 - Augsburger Allgemeine: Twelve Tribes prefer the Constitutional Court [over Nördlingen court]
Two parents, who are members of the Twelve Tribes community, have distanced themselves from the child-rearing practices of their faith. They have entered into an agreement with the courts that the Jugendamt may determine the best care for their children for the time being.
15.05.2014 Schwäbische.de - Twelve Tribes members distance themselves from corporal punishment practices

...followers of the "Twelve Tribes" live strictly according to the rules of the Old testament. Districts are strictly divided by gender and hierarchal. The male authorities refer to themselves as "shepherds"... men are referred to as "brothers" and women are referred to as "sisters".
2. Your children are not allowed to attend public schools. This is to protect them from the influences of the modern world...
3. The "brothers" and "sisters" have to work long and hard hours. For this, they get no reward and refrain from having personal property. They also reject health insurance.
4. The "Twelve Tribes" use corporal punishment and see it as a legitimate means of education...
5. ...Your own thought and individuality are undesirable, the world outside is evil and owned by satan and you can only find salvation within the community...
19.05.2014 - Huffington Post Germany - Five Truths about the sinister "Twelve Tribes" cult

... Some children have had custody returned to their parents until there is a final decision made by the courts. In total, there are five children [this has happened with].  These children are again affected by their parents refusal [to send them to school]. The sect has maintained that the children have "Since experienced bullying, drug and nicotine abuse, and sexual permissiveness..."
 ... "Our children continue to be exposed to these worldly influences and it breaks the commandment that tells us not to sacrifice to idols and the requirement to destroy them. This is why our children will be withheld from school attendance as of today."
17.05.2014 - Augsburger Allgemeine - Twelve Tribes: Now the drama begins again

... In their Internet blog, the sect members base their decision on the fact that the public school system would "not train the children for the kingdom of God". Next, we read: "We believe that as their parents, is our highest duty to God and man, to equip our children in their education and training. Firstly, for which they are born, to their Creator with all loving heart and soul, and secondly, to love their neighbor as to love themselves."
19.05.2014 - RTL: 12 Tribes sect opposes compulsory education

The District Office of Donau-Ries has been forced to act in truancy cases in regards to the Twelve Tribes sect. We urge the enforcement of compulsory education of the children in the Twelve Tribes... It is not acceptable that the officials make the enforcement of compulsory education non-binding until thre is a court decision made in the case of the children involved...
21.05.2014 - Bündnis 90 - Die Grünen, Landtag Bayern: Twelve Tribes - Compulsory Education is NOT neogtiable! By Christiane Kamm 
PDF of motion filed in the Bavarian State Parliament
23.05.2014 - Augsburger Allgemeine - Compulsory education is not negotiable

Here is a brilliant take-down and summation of the entire Twelve Tribes case in Germany, in German, for Germans.


Lernen durch Schmerzen - Kreationismus-Sekte 12 Stämme!
Felix: This is Thien, and I am Felix...

Thien: and this is the "What's up? Short"!

Felix: The fundamentalist Christian sect "Twelve Tribes" are again refusing to send their children to school and are therefore infringing the German compulsory education law. For many years now, the members sect have refused to send their children to state schools. Because they teach "philosophy that is hostile to [belief in] God" and "there is no more disipline there".  Because of that, in 2004, several parents were arrested for a couple of days because they did not comply with the compulsory school laws.
In 2006, the members of the sect were allowed to form their own school on their own property where they could teach their children in Bayern. Last year, this allowance was removed because there were no licensed teachers instructing at the school and it was suspected that children were being beaten with rods during classes.

Thien: In September 2013, the police removed 40 children from the sect because they were physically and mentally abused. The children were placed in children's homes and foster families. Supposedly, the officials knew about the abuse and did nothing for twenty years. Systematic abuse including beating with rods were used as typical childrearing methods. In the past, television stations reported about the problems in the sect and interviewed former members of the sect about the charges.
A reporter infiltrated the sect and installed hidden cameras and documented the abuse of the children. Several former members reported that the will and spirit of the children are systematically broken by spanking is part of their every day life.

Felix: The Twelve Tribes sect was founded in the 1970s in the USA. Communities of the sect are now, for example, living in Canada, Brazil, England.. and even in Germany. The members of the sect are Bible literalists and believe the world is ending in 2026. They wear white clothes and long hair and strict rules govern their daily routine.
They do not want their children's development to be influenced by modern ways of life. They believe people who live as we do, are possessed by Satan. Members of the sect are not allowed, for example, to wear short dresses, apply cosmetics, smoke or have sex before marriage. The sect does not recognize the theory of revolution and protest sexual education or anything that contradicts their morals.
Former members say they were beaten for small mistakes. For example, if you weren't fast enough doing math in your head or looking out of a window in class.

Thien: Though the children were removed towards the end of 2013, there are a few who are living with the sect while a court decision about their case is made. Five of these children are not obeying the compulsory school laws. The courts will not act in this case until a decision is made if the parents involved will lose their parental rights entirely. The sect sees the removal of their children in September 2013 as a crime, and therefore have filed a counter-suit. 

The reason why it took years for the courts and Jugendamt to act is because they lacked clear evidence of abuse. The community was observed, but the controls were announced. This allowed the sect to hide their abuses.

Felix: Do you believe that beliefs such as the Twelve Tribes should be forbidden?

Thien: Do you believe that former members of the sect will be able to live a normal life?

Felix: Let us know in the comments below
[various chatter related to other videos after]

Here is a counter video from the Twelve Tribes. Besorah (15) and Sarah (16) are interviewed. Both girls grew up in the Twelve Tribes community and were removed from their parents on September 5th, 2013 and placed in care and sent to public schools. I have only translated Besorah's part, as she spoke in German.



My name is Besorah Schott and I am 15 years old. I was born and raised in the 12 tribes community.  When I went to the school in Deiningen, it was very difficult for me to find friends because everyone excluded me [socially]. I have always tried to be friendly to everyone, but it doesn't seem to have helped me make any friends. The class is very wild. There are always fights, chairs are being thrown around.. it really was hell on earth for me to go there. I was discriminated against and not treated normally. Because of that, I do not want to return. I have tolerated four months there, but I've had it up to here.
I couldn't study or learn at all at all due to the music and cell phones being on all the time and being totally distracted; children not behaving in the classroom while the teachers shouted at them to regain order and the children not listening to them. The 16/17 year old boys were very wild and were misbehaving like kindergartners and I just wanted to concentrate and learn there.
If you look at my school transcripts you can see that I was a very good student and I have enough education from my eight years of schooling in [the Twelve Tribes school in] Klosterzimmern. I can only praise our private school and I wish I could attend there again. My experience in our private school was only good and I didn't have to suffer from being socially excluded, discriminated against or mobbed.
I have always wished and hoped for the school in Klosterzimmer to be reopened. But, nothing has been done so far.
--remainder of interview with Sarah is in English and will not be typed out --

The Netherlands site "Cult Help" now has a write up about the German Twelve Tribes situation here.
Bettina, at Bettine's schrijfsels has also disseminated some of the story in Dutch and linked to the RTL story with Wolfram Kuhnigk.

Rose-Marie Crusado has also informed me of a new site, Question 12 Tribes.
   
 I've attempted to access the SWR article where parents in the Twelve Tribes had requested parental custody be returned temporarily for their children to celebrate Shavuot over the Pfingsten (Pentecost) holidays.  Most of us following this story knew that this meant any children returned would likely be ferried out of the country before the courts, Jugendamt and police could do anything about it. The Twelve Tribes did not disappoint.


..The five young people who had parental custody reinstated pending their court cases have been registered in Austria, the District Offices of Ronau-Ries said on Wednesday. German authorities no longer have contact with the families...
04.06.2014 - Augsburger Allgemeine: Twelve Tribes families have left Germany

...two other girls have fled state care. Whether they returned to their families is unknown...
...Notification of the relocation of five teenagers was given to the District Youth Office in late April. "The district office has no designated addresses [for the families] so it is unknown whether, and if so, where, the  children are currently residing in Austria..
04.06.2014 - NTV: Several Twelve Tribes families leave the country
04.06.2014 - Tiroler Tageszeitung Online: Several families in the "Twelve Tribes" cult have moved out of Germany
...As early as last September, it had been reported that several "Twelve Tribes" children have been taken abroad. The community does not only own the two estates in Bavaria, but in the summer of 2013 drew a large portion of the community to a new estate in Dolchau, in Saxon-Anhalt.
Neighbors and former cult members had reported that around ten boys and girls between about 7 and 16 years of age had disappeared. The children likely left Dolchau shortly after the large-scale operation in Klosterzimmern and Wörnitz. Supposedly, the sect members have brought the children abroad - presumably in order to escape the clutches of the German Jugendamt...
04.06.2014 - Der Spiegel: Twelve Tribes sect members left Germany
   
...The Office for Youth and Family of the district office of Donau-Ries was responsible for a total of 22 children and young people of the 12 tribes last check.
    All school-age children in youth care facilities (5 school-age children) or foster families (10 children, 6 of school age) are attending school regularly. This has not changed..
    In Klosterzimmern, there are currently no school-age children.
...On 28.04.2014 was known to us that five young people from the faith community have been registered for residency by one or both parents in Austria. ...The courts had returned custody and residence determination to the parents. The parents were imposed at the same time, prove attendance at school through a monthly report from the school to the Jugendamt.

    In regards to a 15-year-old adolescent, parental custody was transferred back without any conditions to the parents. . .
04.06.2014 Donau-Ries Aktuell: Current information about the twelve tribes
04.06.2014 - Locally: Donau-Ries district office information about the "Twelve Tribes"
9. The Twelve Tribes
The German sect from the deepest parts of Bavaria stands against anguish and otherworldliness in any form. Children feel this first and foremost, as they are beaten and abused by members. You are already maltreated as the babies. Later, they are disallowed to go to school. The authorities have struggled for years against those responsible for the abuse. In 2013, parents of 40 children had custody withdrawn - on suspicion of physical and emotional abuse.
05.06.2014 - Huffington Post Germany: The 10 Most Dangerous Cults in the World
..Whether in Austria or Germany: The manners and customs of the "twelve tribes" will repeatedly colliding with the state and society if they do not let criticism and change into their world. If they do not ask: What have we done wrong? What if we cease using corporal punishment? Lastly, children in Germany have a right to violence-free education, as it is written in the Civil Code since 2000. Also, the Basic Law wishes for everyone to develop freely...
11.06.2014 - Der Spiegel: Twelve Tribes- From the perspective of a sect
 ..As of 1979, the sect had been trying to teach their children themselves. For seven years, Bayern gave a permit to the sect for private lessons. Christian Reip has a certificate that he has complied with the mandatory elementary school. He has nothing more, not even a secondary school. He has said he is not aware that any of the children have a high school diploma. Today Reip says: "I have difficulties reading and writing."...
14.06.2014 - Südwest Presse: That which disciples by the rod [Christian Riep tells his story]

If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10,  part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15 and part 16 to be better informed on this issue.You will also find that the Wikipedia page on The Twelve Tribes Community has been updated to include basic information of what is happening here as of September 2013. There have been no current updates as no newspapers are carrying information about what is happening in English. However, the German Wikipedia page has most of the information behind what is, for all intents and purposes, an ongoing court case.

7 comments:

  1. Very sad, but very interesting at the same time. I was raised in a cult so a lot of this hit's home to me.

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  2. peaceful meadows14 June, 2014 16:47

    very informative. from the comment club

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  3. very well written, a much needed distilled review. check out question12tribes.com.

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  4. My wife and I lived at various Twelve Tribes cult communities in the USA. Our longest stay as members was for 8 months. Our main reason for leaving was the frequent physical punishment of children for the smallest of matters. Such as not sitting still, playing pretend, even the slightest hint of disobedience. I was several times instructed by older members or the shepherd of our commune house to begin hitting my two year old son. The shepherd said that if I did not want to do it, then he would be able to do so. I said I would. At one of the daily gatherings, my son was bored and wiggling around too much again. I took him to the bathroom and told him why I was going to discipline him. I hit his little hands as I had been instructed to do. He did not cry. I hit them very hard then with the long flexible wooden stick. Still he did not cry. He looked at me with sad and confused eyes, like he was saying, "Why are you hitting me? You are my father? Why is this happening?" I decided after that, that I would never hit my son again. We lived some months longer at the Tribes commune. I would pretend to take my son to the bathroom to physically discipline him, so other members would not do it for me, but when we were inside the bathroom, I did nothing. We waited a little while, and then we went back to the gathering or from what we had been doing. I wish I had never met the Twelve Tribes. The sad reality is that it is, in some ways, it is a beautiful life with beautiful ideas. It comes with a new identity, a new life, new friends, new forgiveness at first, a new culture. It can make you feel loved, needed, and special, no matter how degraded you have felt or to what extent you have failed in mainstream society. But it is a place of totalitarian control, where "everything matters". Every little thing about your life is watched and you are frequently corrected. You are to be "like a wheat berry, which is ground up with other wheat berries to be made into the finest flour that God can use to bake a loaf of bread (the community)." In some ways, it is a sad, sick, and abusive hypocritical life. They condemn all other religions and churches, but they themselves have corrupt leadership at times on the local level, and their overall Apostle and his wife, Elbert Eugene Spriggs "Yoneq" and Marsha Ann Duvall Spriggs "Haemeq" have done real damage to people's lives through the Teachings and lifestyle they have started and the double-standards that exist between the shepherds and the sheep members. They claim it's all of God's Holy Spirit, but I have seen that this is not so. It is not "the only place that you can be saved." Not "the only place where God's Spirit dwells." There is actually another type of spirit behind this whole organization. One that does not bring true happiness. It controls, enslaves, and cuts a person and children down, until they can no longer really see things clearly. After a time, you begin to see everything through a different set of eyes and understanding. It is frightening to me. I have had it happen almost completely several times. Our experiences with the Twelve Tribes have seemingly permanently disturbed our lives to some extent, even though we are away from the culture there. Perhaps the Tribes were started with the best of intentions, but it grew into a one-man/one-couple dictatorship and with a subtle and now blatant pride that they are "the only ones doing the will of God on earth."

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  5. Few know this, but the Twelve Tribes cult is actually a Seventh-day Adventist offshoot group further modified in doctrine, such as adding eternal Hell torture and purgatory Death. The Tribes Apostle's wife originally wanted to be an SDA christian before the Tribes began. When I think of the Twelve Tribes, it hurts my heart. I care about the people, admire some of the ideals, but am faced with the disturbing realities of what goes on, and the dishonesty with new visitors and the public. For example, it is okay to lie to others to protect the group and the leaders, even in court under oath. This life is all about serving the group, and the individual is simply a worker bee who has given everything to do that. I have studied religion closely much of my life. I can clearly say that communal lifestyles are generally a wreck of a situation waiting to happen, especially when new members have to give anyone all their money, property, inheritance, car, and freedoms, and then also give up friends and family "in the world." I am grateful that Germany had the common sense and courage to stand up to the deceptions and abuses of the Twelve Tribes communities. Their leader should have been made to appear in court. He is a coward, he always has been, avoiding honest public appearance and questions. If people have to give an account to God after they die, people like he and his wife should, for taking away people's lives while they live "as dead men." "Dead men don't have opinions" in the Tribes. When you join, you die to the group, and now only live for the group. The group is your God. I am only scratching the surface, but wanted to say something. Thank you for this blog.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story anonymous. If you like, you certainly are welcome to email me - mausi2000(at)gmail.com

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  6. The Twelve Tribes community cult will likely never really be able to look at their own culture and ask themselves the hard questions, or really be able to change what they believe, or how they do things, unless the Apostle and his wife make the changes before they die, and that does not seem likely. The Apostle is "The Anointing" and what he has taught and formulated into "the Teachings" is like the Bible to them. It is God to them. His authority is what has produced the unity and high-conformity in the movement. "Speak not evil of the ruler of thy people" I was told as a member. If you criticize or question the group, even in a very polite very tiny humble way, you will be judged as "rebellious" or "unbelieving." Saying anything against or questioning the Apostle is unthinkable in the group. I think it is possible that when the founders die, there is a tiny chance for change, but if that chance for change occurs, it will likely divide the movement, and they all know that, so what will likely take place is that they will do what the Apostle has instructed and "cling to the Anointing (himself)" and "the traditions which have been handed down to you." Because, they think they are of God, because they are in complete unity/uniformity. If they lose the unity, they have failed to be the "Bride of Yahshua (Jesus)", they have failed to be the only true end-times Church. So, it will be an even more tightly regulated culture of control based upon what the Anointing-Prophet has decreed. This is and will be their basis of unity/uniformity. I wish it could somehow be different. I wish at least people didn't have to work double-shifts most days, for free. There was a time in some households when couples would receive a little spending money each week. That was taken away. I wish it could be the "life of love" they preach and talk about, sometimes it is and it's beautiful, but mostly, it's a life of uniformity, fear and condemnation of the outside world including of churches-doctors-hospitals-higher education, and endless menial work with no wages and no insurances of any kind (unless they are forced in court by governments to pay the insurance premiums, like worker compensation insurance in America). I know people who have died of medical neglect in the Twelve Tribes. People I had worked with and cared about. It angers me. They were simply encouraged to and allowed to slowly die in the community and usually without any pain medications. They have this sick mentality that all pain is allowed by God and people should take no pills. "There's no pills here." Two sisters I knew had cancer and died. One man was in terrific pain for years in community before dying. Instead of professional medical care and modern treatments, they may give you daily fruit juice in bed instead. Something you hardly ever receive as a healthy member. I think it's about money. They refuse to carry health insurance for the members, and because it's a communal/communistic society, most of the members receive only basic survival needs: food and clothing. I know sisters in one community that grow bean spouts in order to have some money just to buy socks and underwear. The Twelve Tribes, messianic communities, Yellow Deli cafe's, and the Peacemaker Ship are sad examples of how just one man can become an Apostle and Prophet and then disable and reduce human lives under his direct and indirect control, and how his wife can also negatively influence his decisions as well.

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