The Children of God
by Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, 1984
Moses David returned in secrecy from his nine-month trip to Israel and
Europe. It had been his desire to stay permanently in Europe, but he
was compelled to return to the United States to put in order problems
in my marriage that were threatening to disrupt the work. Mo's plan
was to return to Europe immediately after he had dealt with me, and
had plotted the conquest of Europe with his leadership cabal.
Before he left the U.S. again, however—feeling the full effects of
his newly acquired power and authority as the Prophet on the Mountain,
he decided to introduce some new doctrines into the ranks of the Royal
Dad had rented a two-room studio apartment in a Dallas motel that
doubled as a meeting place for leadership conferences. The Royal
Family members would drive over from the TSC ranch to discuss battle
plans. The Revolution for Jesus was exploding, and there were many
decisions to be made. I can now see that Dad was already beginning to
go off the deep end. His letters from
Europe had become more fanatical, and he was losing all sense of
natural morality—as in the case of Abner's wife.
Abner, one of our top leaders, had been killed while riding a
motorcycle cross-country on the ranch. His cycle overturned, and he
was thrown to the ground. Apparently his head struck a rock, and he
went into a coma from which he never awoke. He died a few days after
the accident. Prior to the funeral, Dad received a prophecy directing
him to take Abner's wife, Shiphrah, as his own. So Moses David now had
four wives: my mother, Maria, Martha, and Shiphrah.
Intoxicated by absolute power, Dad calculated that he could introduce
the doctrine of sexual "sharing" among the members of his immediate
family. We had been having numerous leadership conferences, and after
these meetings often stayed the night, as it was a long drive to TSC
from Dallas. On one of these nights, Dad made his move. I thought, "Oh
God, Dad's going to make us get into it too." Until then, only Dad was
exercising sexual freedom. But the Prophet was intent on teaching his
family members how to practice "true spiritual freedom." When I
realized what was happening, my mind short-circuited. I slipped out of
the apartment unnoticed. I walked aimlessly down the road. My thoughts
flashed back to Vienna, to that nightmare I had carefully buried in
the back of my mind, to the remembrance of seeing my mother publicly
humiliated. I recalled the sexual advances my father had made toward
me as a child.
My mind flipped into a state of utter confusion and dissillu-
sionment. I was overwhelmed by doubts about Dad, about God, about my
whole state of existence. As my head swirled, my conscience brought
the weight of sin and guilt crashing viciously upon me. I was
experiencing a breaking point.
My first breaking point occurred at Vienna when my dad introduced the
"Old Church, New Church" prophecies. As I review my ten years in the
Children of God, I can see that I have experienced about eight
breaking points. These are the times when circumstances and events
cause a person to question why he is doing what he is doing, why he is
in the COG, why he is following Moses David. I believe that during
these breaking points, God—through the influence of the Holy Spirit
on my conscience—was trying to help me to see the truth. Being a fiercely
proud person, I was not yet in a position to face the truth about my
father, and what we were "doing for the Lord." To admit that Dad was
walking in darkness was a terrifying thought. I wrestled with that
reality and forced it back into the innermost closet of my mind.
Before long, the family in the apartment realized I had run away, and
my husband came looking for me. He found me walking rapidly down a
back road many blocks from the motel. I tried to ignore his presence,
but he pleaded with me to get into his car and go back and talk it out
with Dad. When we finally returned, I was able to speak privately with
"Linda dear," he began smoothly (using my given name, which he always
used in private), "perfect love casteth out all fear."
He was quoting I John 4:18 to explain that my inability to accept this
new spiritual freedom was due to my lack of perfect love.
"If you had perfect love as the Bible speaks of," he said, "and were
living totally within the love of Christ, you would understand that
with other members of the 'body' who also live within this perfect
love, we can share freely with one another and there are no
boundaries, not even sexual ones. We are all 'one body' and all things
are lawful, honey—all things."
This was Dad's "All Things" doctrine, a takeoff from Paul's statement
in I Corinthians 6:12, which states, "All things are lawful unto me . . ."
Dad was teaching that this freedom was a manifestation of grace, a
result of being part of the body of Christ. It was not "immorality," but
"love." After all, we were all part of the same "body."
Because I refused to go along with Dad's concept of mandatory sharing,
I was consigned to the class of the "unspirituals." My refusal to
accept Dad's "All Things" doctrine certainly did not arise from my being
any more righteous than the rest of the Royal Family, but rather,
there was something inside me that rebelled and caused me to resist.
Consequently, a conflict developed within me. From that moment on, I
believed that because I could not accept this doctrine of sexual
freedom, I therefore did not have a
close relationship with the Lord. I lacked that "perfect love" and was
simply not as spiritual as the rest. Throughout my remaining years in
the Family, I felt great condemnation because of this. However,
because of my resistance, running away as I did that day—Dad left me
alone, and never again tried to include me in his orgies.
After he had indoctrinated the Royal Family members, Dad began to
bring other top leaders to his Dallas apartment for "training." He
invited the major leaders and their wives under the pretense of
leadership meetings, and there he began their instruction in the
doctrine of "sharing." In turn, these people returned to TSC and, in
the months to follow, slowly began to teach others the same. They had
been admonished to handle this "freedom" with discretion, so they did
not practice it among the babes or disciples new to the Family. It was
kept among the "old-timers"—those who were "mature in the faith."
Ironically, NBC had just shown the highly favorable "First Tuesday"
documentary to the American public. This portrayed the COG to be a
very puritanical, Christian organization, which, at the time of the
filming, was basically true. When producer Bob Rogers and the NBC
crews were filming at TSC, we lived morally chaste lives. But by the
time of its release, Mo had returned from Israel, and things had
Dad retreated to Oklahoma late in the summer of 1971, but not until he
had taken another wife: Rachel. During the days in Laurentide, in the
summer of 1969, he had married Rachel to a young man named Samson. It
seems Dad repented of his hasty actions and wanted Rachel for himself.
Samson was a dedicated follower, a true revolutionary disciple ready
to forsake all for Mo or the Lord at a second's notice. Now Dad
explained the situation to Samson:
"Son, the Lord has revealed to me that I should take Rachel back. The
Lord has used you to take care of Rachel these past two years, and
you've done a good job. 'Well done, thou good and
faithful servant.' But God's ways are not our ways, and it seems the
Lord wants Rachel to be with us."
What could Samson do? He had dedicated his life in service to God; he
believed Mo was the voice of God on earth; and he was fully committed
to following Mo—so he conceded. It was a sacrifice for the Lord, and
Samson knew that he must always be willing to give all for Jesus.
Samson's dedication was typical of the people who joined the Children.
Shortly after the transaction, Dad received numerous prophecies
stating that Rachel would be a great leader in the Family, that she
would become the "Great Queen of the Revolution" and do many "mighty
things for God." At any rate, Samson's loss was Dad's gain. Dad left
for Oklahoma in his motor home with only Rachel and Maria. He stayed
in seclusion there for several months until his departure for England
in spring 1972.
Rachel had had a baby by Samson, and she was required to leave the
child in Texas."God will take care of it," Dad explained. It's
amazing how little regard my father showed for the welfare of the
children. We were taught that any sacrifices could be made at the
expense of the children, and God would provide their needs, because we
were doing it for the "cause." Dad never considered or believed that
the children could be harmed psychologically.
In the meantime, I was sent to Los Angeles to fight a sudden wave of
bad publicity in California. Although I was classed with the
"unspirituals," I was placed in key positions of responsibility
because of my capabilities. Dad especially liked to use me in public
relations, because he felt I was the perfect one to "deal with the
systemites" in that I was affable, self-assured, and able to commu-
nicate with sincerity and conviction.
The bad publicity started as a result of several children from
well-to-do families who had joined our ranks. The parents were
furious. These children were not the typical dropout hippies who had
thrown their lives away on drugs; they were nice kids from nice
families. At the same time, Ted Patrick's son tried to join the COG in
San Diego, and Patrick was irate! These parents teamed
up and formed an organization that became known as FREE-COG. Their
purpose was to free their sons and daughters from the movement.* Fred
Jordan had been using the Children of God to promote his TV show in
L.A., and felt obligated to align himself with our cause and help us
combat Free-COG. For that reason, he hired an attorney for us.
|*The organization was formed as the "Parents' Committee to Free Our
Sons and Daughters from the Children of God Organization," soon took
the name "Free-COG," went national in February 1972, and was strong
and active until 1974.
But with adverse publicity mounting in L.A., and Free-COG gaining
power and support, Fred Jordan found himself between the devil and the
deep blue sea. The COG witnessing teams were faithfully bringing in
scores of lost youth off the streets of L.A. Fred had worked out a
very effective promotion with these kids. He would feature some of the
"dirty hippies" on his TV show, announcing their recent conversion to
Christianity. The following week these same "hippies" would appear on
the show, but this time they were neatly dressed, clean-shaven,
all-American boys. Fred proudly announced what great things his
ministry was doing to help the wayward youth of the nation, and then
appeal for money to continue this worthwhile ministry. In 1972,
Enroth, Ericson, and Peters wrote a book entitled The Jesus People.
Their comment on the Jordan-Berg connection was quite perceptive:
Jordan describes himself as a representative of the establishment who
felt a need to reach radical youth. Since he could not do this
himself, he associated with the Children of God. On his television
show, Jordan often spoke as if the Children of God were his ministry,
but this was not at all the case. He was the benefactor, not the
administrator. His program distorted the Children of God by making
them look more ordinary and unexceptional than they really are. He
camouflaged those eccentric doctrines with which he did not agree. His
appeal to businessmen for funds to support the Children of God was,
"You'd better help us reach these tough kids, or they'll destroy your
businesses. We're the only ones who can reach them." Jordan plays on
the desire of right-wingers to keep America Christian and orderly,
followed by an appeal for funds."
Obviously, the authors saw through this relationship with great
accuracy. However, at the time, they had no idea how great the
inconsistencies really were. The fact is, Fred Jordan used the COG,
and the COG used Fred. Jordan began to raise funds on his TV show to
buy a 110-acre ranch in Coachella, California, some miles east of L.A.
This was to be another rehabilitation site, a facsimile of TSC. He
asked for a half-million dollars from the TV viewers. It is reported
that he raised $160,000 in just two months.
The Coachella ranch consisted of a beautiful, sprawling, Spanish-style
ranch house, a gorgeous swimming pool, a fountain, citrus trees, acres
of date palms, and more. Nearby there was another ranch with a large,
new Quonset hut, a very small two-bedroom house, a shack, but no
swimming pool. The latter facilities are what Fred gave to the
Children of God to use. The main ranch was off-limits. But to prove to
the public that their dollars were going to the rehabilitation of
wayward youth, Fred invited news reporters and TV cameramen to "come
and see", and invited all the Children living in the nearby ranch to
visit the big ranch and go swimming. He put out heaping trays of food
and filmed the disciples swimming, eating, and thoroughly enjoying
themselves on the grounds. Then the COG were sent back to their own
facilities. And thus the film footage showed the new Coachella ranch
being used by the COG.
The Children of God claimed to be anti-establishment and anti-church—true Revolutionaries for Jesus. Yet our association with Fred Jordan
greatly compromised the radical position we boasted on the streets.
How hypocritical! Enroth, Ericson, and Peters wrote,
While the Children of God proclaim an uncompromising line to potential
recruits, their liaison with Fred Jordan was a serious compromise.
They knew that he was using them, picturing them as something other
than what they are, but they were willing to make this concession in
order to gain important bases of operation from which to recruit new
My dad had a remarkable ability to humble himself just enough to get
what he wanted—a trait passed on to his children and followers. I personally was there for the mock filming of "our" ranch and
knew that Fred was using us, just as we were using him. I knew that
Fred had no idea what many of our radical doctrines were, for they had
been carefully guarded within the movement. I've often thought about
all the money the public donated to "help the Children"; neither I nor
the COG will ever know what it was really used for.
We were taught in the Family to "use whatever or whomever you can to
gain your purpose. Use it! That's the goal!" After years of service to
his mother and to Fred Jordan, Dad seemed to have an incurable case of
that disease of using a righteous end to excuse an unrighteous means.
Eventually, through hundreds of Mo Letters, the disciples became
indelibly stained with this same moral defect. The final product of
this philosophy can be seen in what the Children of God are today.
But the rewards Fred Jordan had gained through the COG were
disappearing. There is little doubt that he had stumbled upon a goose
that was laying golden eggs, but FREE-COG was "fixin' to cook that
goose." Fred had no desire to be cooked as well. FREE-COG told him
that he had two choices: Expel the COG from all his properties, or
they would investigate and sue him for illicit practices. It was
While the witnessing teams from the L.A. colony were out on the
streets, Jordan sent security guards to lock the front doors at their
home. When the youth returned, they found themselves suddenly
homeless. We camped out in MacArthur Park for a week while Fred slowly
released our personal belongings to us from his building with the help
of pressure from local authorities. He then delivered an ultimatum to
the groups in Coachella and at TSC in Texas: COG members had to either
renounce Dad and serve Fred, or move off the property immediately.
They marched right off the Coachella ranch, bag and baggage to the
last man. However, we in the family were a bit reluctant to give up on
TSC, our main base, and prepared to fight eviction through legal
means. But Dad got one of his revelations, and orders came from the
top to "move out now! This is only God's way of moving us on to higher
Mo spiritualized the whole affair, explaining that God was going to
use this "persecution" as a means of sending us into all the world.
FREE-COG hoped that if we had no place to live, it would put an end to
the movement; they failed to see that spiritual wickedness is not
combated by physical means. Instead of stopping us, opposition only
caused us to grow, just as Saul of Tarsus' persecution led to a
burgeoning of the early church. The three hundred COG disciples simply
translated into fifteen scattered colonies; in time those fifteen
colonies became thirty, and so on. Mo turned the incident into a
positive event, a change in direction. The day for big colonies had
ended; small colonies were the new order.
Our expulsion from Fred Jordan's properties coincided with the COG's
takeover of the Jesus People Army in the Pacific Northwest. Russ
Griggs, leader of the "Jesus People" in Vancouver, Washington, and
Linda Meissner, leader of the "Jesus People" in Seattle, decided to
join forces with the Children of God. Both these groups had their
origins in the same revivalist stirrings that had bred Teens for
Christ and the COG.*
|*The term "Jesus People" was adopted by specific organizations such
as these. But the term was also used generically to refer to diverse groups
in the religious movement that swept North America among youth and
the counterculture in the late sixties and early seventies.
In light of what we now know about the Children of God, it is
interesting to see how the movement founded by David Berg attracted
Griggs and Meissner. On Meissner's part, she had envisioned the
organization of a vast "army" of devoted followers of Christ that
would sweep the world with the message of the gospel in the "last
days." However, her Jesus People Army was not fulfilling this vision;
her following lacked the total dedication of the disciples of the COG.
She saw in us what her Jesus People Army did not have. But neither
Griggs nor Meissner had any notion that the key to such fanatical
loyalty was the person of Moses David. They wrongly deduced that we
possessed something "vital" to spiritual success; that we had
something of the "Spirit of God" they had yet to uncover.
Griggs and Meissner looked at our rapid growth and concluded that it
could only be the hand of God. This is the deceiving lure of religious
works and a source of great error: People who think it is up to them
to do God's work, and who believe that spiritual credibility can be
judged on statistics, numbers, and success. Phony organizations such
as the COG take great pains to publish and promote their statistics;
they are well aware of the fact that people are easily deceived by an
outward show of religious works.
Thus the Jesus People Army, intent on promoting the kingdom of God
rather than seeking it, were greatly impressed by the COG's numerical
prosperity and disciple loyalty. Obviously they felt it would be to
their advantage to join forces. Underneath it all, their attraction
was triggered by a desire for power and success. Indeed, they had
something to gain. The authors of "The Jesus People" accurately
One of the Jesus People leaders who tried to talk Linda Meissner out
of joining the cult was amazed to listen to Melssner and Jethro
conning each other, neither recognizing what the other was up to.
Meissner expects to use the Children, and the Children expect to use
her. The advantage seems to be all on the side of the Children: we
have yet to discover an instance in which they have been
In the merging of the JPA with the COG, there recurred the mystique of
the lure of the cults. The cults deceive, yet the victims are deceived
because they are tempted by some unrighteous motive. It reflects the
concept of "dual validation"—both parties seeking to promote "self"
by a voluntary mutual involvement.
Jethro and I conducted the negotiations and led Meissner and Griggs to
believe that we two were actually in charge. We were given strict
orders by Mo to leave his name out of the picture as much as possible.
Power is at the root of cultic activities. Even though the Jesus
People Army was deceived and blatantly "ripped off," their motives
were not pure. A desire for success and power had weakened and
corrupted their judgment.
God does not lead people into evil; He leads them away from it. Those
who have been involved in a cult, who have been influenced by one in
some way, must look at themselves. Even those with apparent motivation
to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ must examine why they were
affected and attracted. Anyone lured by the Children of God was
responding to illegitimate motives, even unconscious ones, because
from the beginning, the direction of the COG was toward darkness—we
grew out of an evil root.
Many of the early members of the COG—later called "old bottles"—began to leave as we strayed further and further from the Bible, "Old
Word"—toward the Mo Letters—"God's New Word." They couldn't accept
the "new wine." Anyone who was truly seeking biblical truth was
motivated to leave sooner or later.
The combined force of the exodus from Fred Jordan's properties, and
the amalgamation of the Jesus People Army, spurred tremendous growth
for the COG. But at the same time, the destructive influence of sin in
the camp was struggling to break through and show its ugly
The leadership trained in the "All Things" doctrine by Mo in Dallas
were now scattered in various colonies around the United States. Like a
disease, they carried in their hearts the virus of sexual immorality,
and the infection was beginning to spread. Once the cancer of immoral
desires takes hold, it is not easily cut out. Soon these leaders began
to infect others. Immorality had been sanctified through the word of
the Prophet. Youth who had only recently abandoned their licentious
lifestyle in the counter-culture, were suddenly reveling in their old
sins—but now it was done in the name of Jesus. Incident after
incident began to occur in the colonies where these leaders were
living. But not without consequences.
In Burlington, a large colony north of Seattle that housed more than a
hundred disciples, there was a sudden outbreak of hepatitis, scabies,
and other illnesses. In other colonies, new disciples—"spiritual
babes"—had been brought into the "All Things" activities, would not
tolerate them, and left the Family severely wounded and bitter. The
news media began to pick up on some of the stories, and it was being
reported that COG leadership was
involved in promiscuous behavior. By spreading the doctrine among the
leadership prematurely, Dad had opened the lid on a Pandora's box.
Things were spreading too rapidly to be controlled; the leadership was
out of hand.
Dad interpreted the sudden rash of illnesses and the negative
publicity as a warning from the Lord. He wrote a Letter to all the
leaders entitled "Sin in the Camp", which succeeded in bringing the
fires of immorality under control temporarily. Those who had been
overindulging in "excesses of the flesh"—those leaders who had not
used their sexual freedom discreetly—were called on the carpet and
demoted. They were reprimanded, not because they had committed
immorality, but because through their lack of control, they had
neglected the sheep and gotten the work into trouble through bad
Albeit, these outbreaks of "uncontrolled liberty" had lifelong effects
on the people involved. It is utterly impossible to comprehend the
results of my father's monstrous iniquity: the disease of his "All
Things" doctrines is affecting the lives of tens of thousands.
Gail, a twenty-one-year-old disciple, was one of the first to be
affected. It happened as she was passing through the Burlington colony
on her way back to Seattle in late October 1971. On the same night,
one of our leaders—a young man personally instructed by Mo in the "All
Things" doctrine—was also passing through. Gail had been in the Family
for ten months, and until that fateful night had lived a completely
chaste and moral life in the COG. Circumstances placed Gail and the
leader in the same room, and he began to expound the things Mo had
taught him: "We are free under grace to share love. . . . All things are
lawful. . . . The church system has been put under bondage. . . ."
Gail was genuinely confused. Nevertheless, she said she truly admired
this leader and was more than willing to consent. It wasn't rape, but
she was surely victimized. That is the enigma with sin and the lure of
the cults: people are genuinely defrauded, victimized, and deceived,
yet they are willing victims.
The next morning Gail said goodbye to the leader she greatly admired.
But he didn't care to speak with her. To her feelings of confusion was
added the pain of rejection. As it turns out, Gail
became pregnant that night. Nine months later she bore a son, who has
lived the past twelve years without a father.
Gail's life in the COG continued; she finally left after twelve years
of service. But the effects of Moses David's love doctrines were
tragic. On paper his ideas looked so wonderful, so lofty, so ideal:
Total love, total sharing, one body united in Christ. Gail was
faithful to these teachings. She is now the mother of five children,
by three different men, and none of them have a father to love them.
Gail no longer lives under the deceptive tyranny of David Berg's "All
Things". She lives alone and raises her children alone. The men legally
responsible for the children are busy "serving God"—obeying a "much
higher calling"—and have set aside their obligations to their
children. In the world of the Children of God, it's lawful too, to
walk out on your wife and children.
In September 1979 he published the following statement:
The Lord is very reasonable and merciful and understanding and
loving and kind, so that if two people simply do not want to live with
each other, He does not make rules to force them to do so as man does.—PREGNANCIES FROM SEX need no longer be considered as obligations
to marry as before. Some have not felt free to help each other for fear it
might require marriage if pregnancy occurs. That's optional. We are all
married together into one Family to one Lord, one wife, one bride. So
every girl in the Family, whether you were the one who got her pregnant
or not. . . oh baloney! THE LORD IS THE ONE WHO GOT HER
SO FORGET ABOUT WHO IS RESPONSIBLE! That's so
ridiculous! God was responsible."
My father's "All Things" doctrine translates into nothing but
unmitigated selfishness. Sex for pleasure, sex without responsibil-
ity, sex for sex' sake.
The voice of lust forever screams: "I want it, and I want it now!"
Moses David has succeeded in arousing the insatiable lusts of
thousands of disciples, but who will still the cries of the
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