I was raised in the World Wide Church of God, a cult/Christian sect that had plenty of bizzare and extreme practices. WWCG renounced most of it's super extreme beliefs over the last 10 years and merged with evangelical Christianity. In the process, it's lost most of it's members to splinter groups and mainstream churches.
Looking back on my former church it's interesting to see the parallels between the founding of the World Wide Church of God and Mormonism. Most quotes below are from the WWCG's own web site. Interestingly, Armstrong was accused of borrowing some doctrine's from Mormonism.
The late Walter Martin, in his classic The Kingdom of the Cults, devoted 34 pages to the group, claiming how Armstrong borrowed freely from Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormon doctrines.
-Both were founded by a man who thought all the other Christian sects "had it wrong". (Joseph Smith and Hebert W. Armstrong).
-Both founders were charismatic and gained followers by force of will more so than sound theological arguments. Armstrong's background was advertising.
many people continued to be attracted to Herbert Armstrong’s style and teachings, and the church continued to grow until Armstrong died in 1986 at the age of 93. He left a denomination that numbered 120,000 people in attendance every week. Annual income was 200 million dollars. Magazine circulation was in the millions every month, and the television program was one of the top two religious programs in America.
-Armstrong also had visions and encounters with God/Christ and viewed himself as God's prophet. Armstrong infamously had an org-chart where he was directly under Christ in authority.
Armstrong viewed himself as God’s apostle, leading the one true church. Armstrong had supreme doctrinal authority. If anyone was disloyal, that person would most likely be fired and expelled from the church fellowship. (Legally, Armstrong was under the authority of a board of directors, but they always supported his decisions.)
-Armstrong also believed that Americans were descended from the 10 Tribes of Israel.
Armstrong also had many unusual ideas about prophecy, and these may have been the most attractive doctrines of all. He taught that the United States and Britain are modern descendants of the northern ten tribes of Israel, and that therefore many biblical prophecies apply to the Anglo-Saxon peoples. He saw himself as an end-time fulfillment of prophecy, with a message of warning for the “Israelite” peoples.
Armstrong was always making bold prophecies. When things didn't go according to plan, he would just make new ones.
The Great Tribulation would soon start, he warned in the 1930s, in the 1940s, in the 1950s, in the 1960s, in the 1970s, and in the 1980s — but the good news is that Christ will soon return and rule for 1,000 years. This prediction was so important to Armstrong that it became the center of the gospel. It was the reason the radio and television broadcasts were titled “The World Tomorrow.” The future utopia was the good news.
WWCG used young college grads to spred the church's message.
Young graduates of Ambassador College were then sent to various cities to gather the believers into small churches. The church grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. The radio program was sent to England, Australia, the Philippines, Latin America, and Africa. Church offices were opened in numerous nations around the world. The name of the church was changed from “Radio Church of God” to “Worldwide Church of God."
Herbert Armstrong had scandals involving sexual improprieties including allegations of incest. The churches doctrine regarding divorce and remarriage changed conveniently at the same time Armstrong wanted to remarry. This is somewhat similar to Joseph Smith's doctrine of plural marriage closely tied his personal desires for multiple wives.
Both churches tithe 10% of their income.
WWCG had similar strict rules of personal conduct. Mormons can't drink or smoke. We had similar strange rules.
n addition to the weekly Sabbath, the WCG observed seven annual Sabbaths, based on Leviticus 23. Church members also avoided pork, shrimp and certain other meats (Lev. 11). They gave one tithe to support the ministry, used another to keep the annual Sabbaths, and in some years gave a third tithe to the church for its poor members. The financial requirements were high, but they also increased the levels of commitment.
Armstrong taught that repentance involves a change in behavior, that Christianity involves a way of life. In the WCG, this focused primarily on prohibitions. WCG members were not allowed to vote, serve in the military, marry after divorce, go to doctors, use cosmetics, or observe Christmas, Easter and birthdays.
Both churches had a practice of banishing troublesome members. We called it "disfellowship".
Glad to see there our other survivors out there of WWCG. I was born into the church in the mid 70’s and was a member up till about the age of 20 when i was finally on my own and able to make the decision to leave.
I remember having to sit in the hall of my elementary classroom while the other kids had their holiday celebrations inside. Being the weird kid that would always dissapear for strange holidays and not be able to color the holiday pictures. I loved music and soccer and wanted so badly to participate in band and join the soccer team but the practices and games were always on Fridays and Saturdays, so i could not. My grades were terrible because i missed so much school and never was able to get caught back up after leaving for the Feast. Plus i never felt my grades mattered anyway since the world was ending soon. I remember seeing a pair of jets fly over my head one afternoon when the News was full of talks about the US going to war and feeling a sense of glee. I cheered when the jets flew over because i knew if there was a big war, then the place of safety was near. Feeling guilty for accidently eating a piece of sausage that was on the pizza at the school lunch but being so hungry i could not help it. I would immediately pray and ask for forgiveness and hope that i would not end up in the lake of fire. Passing out at the age of 10 because of fasting on the holy days was a common thing.
One thing I did remember the ministers always saying was to prove the beliefs to yourself. Which i did. Once out on my own I devoured every book on religion i could find, studied other religions of the world, took classes at my university on religion and slowly the grasps of religion started to loosen their hold. The smoke cleared and i started to see things a lot more clearly. The more i learned about the bible and religions of the world the more the wall was broken down till i finally became aware of it’s absurdity and damage that it is capable of inflicting. It seems the greatest cure for the disease of religion was knowledge.
I still have a few friends that are raising their children now in the church (UCG) and it breaks my heart. I am like “don’t you remember what it was like.” My parents are still apart of UCG. We have learned not to talk about religion in front of each other cause it always just ends in an argument. They are barely making it financially, have no savings for retirement, have lost their house and filed for bankruptcy but still dutifully send in that tithe money and spend all thier money once a year at the Feast.
It has taken a long time for me to not feel seperate from the rest of the world. Not feel like i was some sort of special chosen person and more important than the rest. I mean, when you are raised to believe that one day you will be god-like and teaching these poor saps the real truth, it takes awhile for that sort of brainwashing to leave.
Wow, i have rambled a lot. Thanks for letting me vent and glad to see there our others out there that know what i am talking about. I am so much happier now in my life living rationally and away from any belief in a god (Santa Clause for adults).
I really appreciate what’s been shared here. I am a post mormon, meaning, I no longer believe. But I still struggle quietly from time to time combatting the cult mind tendrels that try to suck me back in. It is good to read that others in similar orgs also feel/ felt a pull back into the former world.
I have been misunderstood a time or two.. or three. When I make statements like the one above, I sometimes have people email or pm me like I am some weakling who cannot think for myself. All I can say is that while I am quite certain Mormonism is an invention, that does not mean 30 plus years of socialization/ mental conditioning just evaporates immediately or never returns. It all takes time.. and many many books to begin to undo it all. I sometimes find myself having to fortify in my mind why I left Mormonism in order to find peace about that decision. My family and Mormon friends would quickly point out that is Satan working on my spirit trying to drag me to hell. I have said many times to my some times brutal accusers that unless they have actually been in agreeance with a cult for any length of time, it is nearly impossible for them to understand. I don’t mind the candid emails. I welcome them.
Good to see another in the struggle to free ones mind. Just think.. I never once feel guilt or shame or fear for not ever being part of UCG… I feel no compunction to evaluate or consider your former religion whatsoever.. And neither of you feel or have felt any twinges for not ever being Mormon. Yet all of us struggled (struggle?) mightily to free ourselves from our mental religious prisons. Isn’t that cause to pause.
Hey noggin, plesed to meet you fellow brother…or were you ever an elder. Sheese mon, I got out of the cult by 18…ypu’ll be happy to hear that my father and two brothers are free of the instituion of irrationality that the con man built. I am completely free (I know my one brother, the one who felt compelled to go on the obligatory mission, still feels guilty because his wife divorced him for not believing anymore..) so he’s not completely free.
How ‘bout you, did you ‘SERVE’ on a mission? My brother feels a tad guilty for having converted mexican families in the poorest parts of mexico. (They probably all re-converted back to catholicism…unless they really bought into being gods one day…that clever ole joe: knew how to give the people—men especially!—what they want!
google the twelve_step_recovery…it has steps to help mormons, well, recover.
I am completely Freeeeee noggin…I’m sad because my sister just placed her son into the brainwashing camp in Provo before they shuffle him off to Argentina…those mo’s really going after the latinos! I want to go save my nephew from the brainwashing techniques and lies they’re imprinting on an otherwise intelligent, creative, reasonable young mind…it’s a horrible sense of helplessness…my sister is a child abuser and doesn’t even cognizantly know it—she’s lost all ability to think for herself… a lost cause : ( .
I had two other cousins escape…possibly a third, all on my father’s side. My ‘grampy’ (on my mother’s side) married, or ‘sealed’ rather, couples in the temple. I bet he annointed alot of nipples and navels, and peni with oil!
I fucking hated getting baptized for the dead…it didn’t make sense! I’d ask them directly: “What if they don’t want to be baptized a mormon?”
They said they could choose whether to accept it.
I asked them, if they could see god because they were dead, why would they need to be baptized in a church here on earth; I suggested that it made no sense that god wouldn’t accept them just because they weren’t a member of the mormon church; I explained that unless the dead person told me they wanted me to do this for them, I’d rather not make this decision for them; I told them that god wouldn’t have given me a bumb ear if he wanted me to get baptized for dead people.
I got an ear infection afterwards. (thanks dead people! ) Actually they got sick of my reasonable questions and my dad and mom got tired of paying for penicillin! Never had to do it again.
Were you “worthy” to go through the temple?
Hahahahahahaa! The mormon church…it always gives me a good chuckle when I think about them…and then I think of my poor nephew…
Sometimes I want to go to a service and stand up during a testimony meeting and when I get the mic, tell them the historical facts concerning their brave creator and leader, joseph smith and his successor mr. young. I wonder what they’d do? They’re such a polite and mainly docile cultist creatures.
I propose a toast to all of us and our GreAt EsCapeS!
Hey noggin, plesed to meet you fellow brother…or were you ever an elder.
I was and I guess still am an elder since I have not formally resigned.
Sheese mon, I got out of the cult by 18…ypu’ll be happy to hear that my father and two brothers are free
only if they are happier now outside Mormonism and severe negative repercussions were avoided. Some people who leave strongly fanatical organization lose their entire social network not to mention have their spouses divorce them. Some never see their children ever again or only on rare occasions. It just isn’t so easy.
I am completely free
I trust that is working for you.
(I know my one brother, the one who felt compelled to go on the obligatory mission, still feels guilty because his wife divorced him for not believing anymore..) so he’s not completely free.
Ah yes, this serves to assist my point made previously.
How ‘bout you, did you ‘SERVE’ on a mission?
I am completely Freeeeee noggin…
this does apparantly seem to be working for you
I want to go save my nephew from the brainwashing techniques
you might want to hold off on that fruitless task. Many have tried. Many have failed. I am one of them. Only a rare few ever wake up. Most folks are just very content to stay within the safer confines of what they feel to be true.
In a way, it is good to respect this in others. That has been my experience. It’s a struggle to do so, but it serves me well when I remember it.
Were you “worthy” to go through the temple?
I used to strive daily with everything I was or hoped to be to be that I might be temple worthy. It consumed me. It was probably all I ever thought about. Most of my decisions were placed in this context.
Sometimes I want to go to a service and stand up during a testimony meeting and when I get the mic, tell them the historical facts concerning their brave creator
This is a normal fantasy. This too shall pass. One day you’ll just realize the futility of such a feat and give up thinking about doing it. Or maybe not.