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My Escape From The Cult
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My Escape From The Cult

Her account of how she came into Christianity after first leaving the Mormon Church then entering a radical offshoot group called Mormon Fundamentalism


The cult leader burst through the door of the small room where I was being held prisoner. "Are you ready to repent!" he shouted, his face red with anger. "Are you ready to come into our meeting and admit you were worshiping at the altar of Baal!"

I fell back on my bed, emotionally cringing at the thought of another encounter. After nine months of his tirades and charges of being a traitor, plus disillusionment over beloved doctrines and believing i'd never see my family again, i didn't care if I lived or died.

Sick, and fighting waves of nausea, I had no strength to reason with this man . . .a man whom I once thought held special favor with God. "All I wan't to do now, is die," I said weakly.
"No way!" He moved closer, his body authoritatively towering over me.

"Wouldn't you just love to have something happen to you so the police would come in! There's no way you're going to bring a murder charge down on me! You're going to stay alive so you can repent!" he shouted. "You're a traitor, not only to us, but God! You must denounce the God you found in that Christian church!"

He stormed out of the room yelling, his footsteps echoing through the empty building. I heard the front door slam shut, leaving me in the silence.

I stared at the bare light bulb dangling from the hole in the ceiling above me. Looking continuously at bleak unfinished walls day after day was almost more than I could bear.

Captive in that room for nine months, I suffered through crushing disappointments, mental and emotional agonies, unanswered questions, depression, and failing health. At times it became so bad, I thought I was losing my mind. All I wanted to do was die. Little did I know that a week later my death would nearly become a reality.

I lay there wondering, How did such a noble venture on my part turn into such a nightmare? I prayed to be led to truth! I hoped to serve God more fully by joining the commune!

My mind retraced the steps of how I had landed in such a frightful situation. Dissatisfied and bored in the main-line cult I had belonged to for thirty-four years, but spurred on by the cult's teaching to strive for perfection, I discovered its secret underground movement. It seemed like an answer to prayer. I learned about communes where everyone equally shared goods and finances. Believing the biblical way as in the Book of Acts was correct, that of having everything in common, it would be a good method to purge out any hidden selfishness and grow closer to God. It was the opportunity of a lifetime! I envisioned everyone spiritually loving each other--a virtual paradise! My husband had passed away a year earlier, my children were grown, so I was free to go.

I put my home up for sale, ready to give the proceeds to the commune. Since it didn't sell by the time I was ready to leave, I left it in the hands of a realtor. With stars in my eyes, I took off for the commune, a farm in Montana.

It was a tough adjustment. Drinking-water had to be hauled in because too much iron was in the well water. The brownish-red water we bathed in was like taking a bath in root-beer--a novelty at first. In the main house, there was only one bathroom for fourteen people and the toilet was clogged most of the time. There were shocking conditions which I preferred not to think about. But, I didn't mind. I was living a principle I believed was right!

My first shock came when I realized everyone didn't love each other. After being showered with love and attention when I first entered, strife, jealousy and contention took over. As the months dragged on, life on the farm grew progressively worse. Stricter rules were added. Robot obedience to the leader's religious authority was demanded. If I had to drive into town to the laundromat, I was forced to say, "Please, may I"--and then only if I said it just right.

In addition, the violent temper and sharp tongue of the leader's wife continually left me in tears. Devastated over her jealous hatred toward me and shocked at the commune's unexpected demands, I began to withdraw. The joy I experienced at the beginning of my venture was gone. I felt empty and desolate.

Although most of my activities were curtailed, I still had one freedom--that is, if I asked permission. Early Sunday mornings I was allowed to drive to a nearby lake. I told the leader I wanted to pray. But, the real reason? I needed to get away from what seemed like a dark cloud over the farm. It never entered my mind to take that opportunity to leave.

One morning, by the lake, I poured my heart out to God asking him to lift my depression. I prayed for humility so I would be more submissive to the leader--for charity, so I could become immune to his wife's verbal abuse.

Winter soon set in and the snow became too deep to drive to the lake. Determined not to give up my Sunday mornings, I pretended to go to the lake but, instead, drove aimlessly over the barren plains. Coming to a small country church I decided to go in knowing I dare not be found out.

Entering, I quietly slipped into the back row. The singing and atmosphere of peace and love was in such sharp contrast to life on the farm, that my spirits were immediately lifted. The song leader and pastor spoke so many kind and loving things that by contrast I began to gain a clearer perspective of how wrong things were in the commune.

They talked about deeper aspects of the atonement that I had never fully understood. They mentioned that because of the atonement, works would never get one into heaven, a concept that put me in shock. Further, I learned about grace, something the Mormon Church never defined nor addressed. I returned to the farm, able to cope with the abuse for another week and by eagerly looking foward to the next Sunday.

But, after attending four Sundays, my worst fears were realized. I had been followed! When I returned to the farm, the leader confronted me.
"Have you been attending that church!" he shouted.
"Yes," I replied timidly, "but, let me tell you about..." I got no further. In times past I had seen individuals lose their temper, but I had never seen rage before. I was dumbfounded as all hell literally broke loose.
"Didn't you know you were worshiping at the altar of Baal! he screamed. "Attending that Christian church now makes you guilty of spiritual adultery!"
"Why are you treating me this way?" I cried. Don't we believe in God?"
"Of course," came the retort, "but you found him in a Christian church instead of through me! I'm your spiritual leader!"
He demanded the keys to my car which I dutifully handed over. I was cut off from all communication and members were forbidden to communicate with me. I could no longer leave the farm until I came into their meeting and publicly repented of my sin and denounced the Christian God. Bible verses my grandmother used to repeat went through my mind--special verses about God's love. I thought of my unselfish reason for entering the cult. Why was God letting all this happen to me?

Alone in a small 8 x 10 room in an unfinished building at the back of the farm, I was miserable. One bed, a small dresser, and no running water or modern toilet facilities.

To keep from going crazy in my solitary confinement, I began reading books which the leader had given me earlier. I discovered strange and shocking doctrines that Joseph Smith and the early Mormon church believed in. How could I belong to something that believed like that! Surely this couldn't be what the LDS church was founded upon!

Through the months, the leader periodically came into my room to revile me. "Repent!" he yelled. I refused.

As my health deteriorated, my thinking processes became more sluggish. At times it was difficult to even make my mind work. At other times, I found myself doing mental gymnastics in an attempt to rationalize my circumstances. Soon I actually believed my situation was what I deserved.

I grew very thin and slipped in and out of deep depression. I had so wanted to live like the New Testament Christians. I was willing to share everything I had with others and had given the leader most of my life's savings. In addition, I was shattered, suspecting that the doctrines I had believed in for so long, might be wrong. I felt let down...cheated. But, in spite of it all, I was determined not to renounce God.

I never tried to escape. For, even though I decided the cult and its doctrines could possibly be wrong, I was concerned about the commitment I made when I went into the cult. I had promised, before God, to share everything I had. Whenever I thought about leaving, the cult leader's words resounded in my mind over and over again: "God doesn't like a covenant breaker--God doesn't like a covenant-breaker." Not wanting God to think I was a covenant-breaker, I resigned myself to my fate. Come what may, I would not try to escape and become a covenant breaker!

Seven months passed...eight. My health grew worse. I lost all incentive to live. Although expressing my desire to die, the leader was determined to keep me alive. I wondered, in my weakened condition, how long it would take to actually die. My answer came sooner than I anticipated.

One afternoon, one of the children wandered into the building and found me unconscious on the floor. As was told to me later, the leader and others rushed into my room. They began praying and anointing me with oil, while at the same time calling upon their special priesthood authority to raise the dead. They feverishly worked over me--not because they were concerned about me as a person, but because the leader's worse fears might be realized--I might die and he could face a murder charge.

I have no idea how long I was unconscious, but when I finally came to, my body felt so terrible that I weakly raised one arm and looked at it. I had never before seen anything so grotesque. There was no pink color at all. Every bit of my flesh was a solid fusion of black, gray, blue and purple. My other arm was the same. I assumed my whole body was that way.

Seeing I had rallied, they left me; but, the leader made sure his wife brought better food in to me. To my relief the leader, seeing I was not going to repent, finally quit coming to my room.

During the next two months I slowly regained strength, but not without growing health problems. Crippling pain spasms shot through my neck and back, striking without warning. In addition (as a doctor told me later), I had a completely paralyzed colon as well as other complications. After my escape, I required a neck brace, was told I needed a radical colostomy, had a severe hemorrhage requiring six blood transfusions, eventual surgery, and suffered from other health problems.

One day something strange happened. A surprising peace filled me as I was praying, accompanied by the strong impression of a message that "God would deliver me". You mean, I thought, God approves of my leaving? Why, that must mean he won't consider me a covenant-breaker!

Then I began to wonder how? When? Although extremely thin and still suffering from physical problems, I became excited about leaving. My thoughts turned to my furniture and personal belongings stored in another part of the building. I didn't want to leave without them. Suddenly, my plan of escape began to form.

I watched out the small window of my room the day I knew the leader and the others would be going into town. After they piled into their cars, I waited about twenty minutes, then left my room, walked through the vacant building and out the door.

As I crossed the yard toward the main farm house, my heart suddenly stopped. Two men came out of the house heading towards the corral. They were about 150 feet across the yard and glanced in my direction. But, miraculously, it was like they didn't even see me and they continued walking. Then I hurried to the back of the house, my heart in my throat.

Quickly slipping through the back door, I reached for the kitchen phone and fumbled through the telephone directory. I dialed a moving company, making arrangements for them to come the following week. I then hurried back to my room.

The night before the van was due to arrive, I waited until dark. When everyone was in bed, I crept out of my room. I knew the leader kept the keys to my car on a nail just inside the back door of the main house. I was glad for one thing--they had been using my car the last nine months, so the battery wasn't dead. Quickly, I grabbed the keys and crept back to my room.

The pre-arranged morning arrived and I saw the Mayflower pull in. Hurrying out of the building, I waved my arms, motioning the driver down the long dirt driveway.

At the sound of the huge truck, the leader and others came rushing out of the farmhouse. They can't stop me now, I thought, not with strangers on the property! I began talking with the drivers, a husband and wife team. Signing the papers, I pointed them to the building where everything was stored--then stuck to them like glue. The leader and other members stood their distance silently fuming, daring not to prevent me with outsiders present.

When nearly finished, the driver and his wife asked, "Is everything alright?"
"Yes," I said, sensing that although they were puzzled, they knew I was in some kind of tense situation. "I'll meet you in three days at my California address. But, just before you leave, do me a favor and let me pull out in front of you." They seemed to understand.

I walked to my car, grateful for strength, and climbed in. Then, suddenly, in the side-view mirror I saw the leader start towards me. I panicked. Turning the key, I jammed my foot against the accelerator and took off. Momentarily losing control of the car, I side-swiped a pile of railroad ties, bashing a huge dent in the passenger side. I gunned the car down the long dirt driveway and onto the open highway. Free at last!

I immediately headed towards town to wire my bank for money. I had just enough left to finance my trip home. Other than that, I had nothing. I had given all I had to the cult and was approaching my retirement years with nothing. But for now, the dominant thought was, I'm free!

As I drove, I began to cry. First, I cried out of relief. Then I cried because my body felt so terrible. Next, I cried because my religious beliefs had been destroyed. But, lastly, I cried because my dream of finding a community where everyone wanted to live, love, and share, had been a delusion. But now, at least, it was over! . . . or so I thought. I was unaware of the length of time it would take to overcome all the aftereffects.

I was facing three to eight years of disorientation, flashbacks, conflicting emotions, nightmares, irrational behavior, continuing health problems, torn between rejecting Mormonism but emotionally clinging to it, and much more.

Dealing with the emotional aftermath would prove to be the most soul-wrenching, excruciating, experience of my life. Nevertheless, at that moment, all I knew was that I escaped from the cult alive--and was headed home.

Eventually, God led me to a small Christian church in Southern Utah. There, a pastor and his wife who were knowledgeable in working with ex-Mormons, patiently loved and enabled me to finally reject all Mormon beliefs and fully embrace the Truth.

Janis Hutchinson, 1993.

Janis Hutchinson is author of Out of the Cults and Into the Church: Understanding and encouraging ex-cultists (Kregel Pub.). Also, The Mormon Missionaries: An inside look at their real message and methods (Kregel Pub.). Both are available at all Christian book stores, or you can click on their titles and order them directly from Amazon.com. Her e-mail address is: [email protected]
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