These are real anecdotes from a real woman who spent many years in the Twelve Tribes communities in the US. We will call her Emunah. For the sake of discretion names of places and people have been abreviated. As you’ll see these accounts of everyday life speak volumes of the spirit animating the leadership and creating all the many rules for everyone to follow.
1. We weren’t allowed to use the words pee and poop. We had to say urinate and bowel movement.
2. I once had a dream that we heard men could begin to have multiple wives. We were about the witness the first polygamous marriage and I turned to someone and said, “I cannot believe we are actually going to do this”. The woman was crying but she took me by the shoulders and shook me a little and said “Emunah, we just have to trust and receive this.” I woke up thinking if we ever went that far, I’d be out of there for sure. Later that day I was cleaning the kitchen with another woman and I told her the dream, fully expecting she would have the same reaction I had. She didn’t. Instead she said “Wow, we’d have to be given some serious revelation in order for that to happen, like it would be the only way to bring about the male child or something.” I was very shocked by this and it showed me that literally any crazy thing could comedown the pipeline through the “annointing” and there would be obedient people willing to do it.
3. We were always encouraged to be open and honest there, even to “stand on the table” if we thought something wasn’t right, but so often it seemed to backfire and you ended up “in trouble”. Any hard time you were having with any person or circumstance could quickly be turned back on you. You could be told you were only suffering because you were being selfish, having an accusation, not receiving your portion etc. Someone once told me what they’d experienced through their life was basically “Oh, that’s wonderful how you were able to step out of line and be honest……but now get back in line.” One time a woman came to me in tears wanting someone to talk to. I went to her room with her and she poured her heart out to me about how she’d been in the community nearly 17 years, but just felt stuck in a rut. She said she felt if you weren’t born and raised there or part of certain families that you never got the same opportunites. She said she had never been asked to be involved in midwifery, or really taught to sew for example, and she just felt she’d be teaching 2 year old toddler training forever. I could relate to her completely and totally sympathized with her and just tried to tell her positive things about herself. The next day she came back to me and repented for her “complaining” and “not being content with her portion”. I looked her in the eye and told her I did not forgive her, and I hated the fact that we had to repent for honesty like that. And really, I had the wrong response to her. If I’d been “full of the spirit” I would have called her on those things and lead her back on track instead of affirming anything she’d said.
4. There is an elite class in the community. The Masses, Brosseau’s, Delabruere’s, Sage’s etc. My husband used to call them the Dynasties. Someone else called them Empires. These families always seemed to lead somewhat different lifestyles than the average families in the TT. They travelled a lot, seemed to have easy access to money and get their needs met more easily, and most importantly their words held much more weight than others. Their words were to be received as law, and most of them were untouchable from the daily scrutiny that the rest of us were subject to.
5. A teaching came out called Dominant Imma. I gyst of it was that while a wife is completely submissive to her husband, and he lays down the laws in the family, the Imma dominates the realm of child training. Of course it makes sense in the TT that mothers spend more time with the children than fathers, but this teaching was emphasizing the point that even when the fathers were around, that the mothers wouldn’t step back in any way but would continue being in charge of the children. The example given was there could be a tendency in a woman, especially if she has had a long and tiring day with the children, to anticipate abba getting home to “have a break”. But that was wrong. A woman should have the children under control and at peace so that when abba came home at preparation time he could focus on reading something for preparation time while the Imma continued to focus on keeping the children in order during this time, and also at the gathering. My husband was actually rebuked for supporting me with disciplining the children during the gatherings. We had several children and were in and out several times during the gatherings, so we would often take turns. He was told he shouldn’t be the one to leave the gathering for discipline because he was the head, and oil came down from the head to the family. So he should remain in the gathering to focus on what Our Father was saying and if I missed most of the gathering focusing on children then he could pass on to me the things that were shared.
6. There was a permeating ideology that immas (mothers) had more “grace” to cover all their children than the men did. If a woman’s husband was away, there was no guarantee of help for her during meals and gatherings even if she had several children. On the other hand, if it was a rare instance that the Imma was shopping, sick, at a birth, or just had a baby herself, and the husband was covering all his children, they were almost sure to be divided out so he may only end up having one or two.
7. I suffered with chronic constipation for years and years in the community. Drinking a cup of coffee was usually a surefire way to prevent this, but of course coffee is not allowed. I went to Ehud at one point and asked him what was more detrimental to health- a cup of coffee a day or living with chronic constipation. He confirmed the latter was worse and told me if the coffee worked then I could do that. So I felt completely ‘covered’ at that point. Due to many other circumstances a few months later, I ended up in a very intense meeting with several leading couples and Ehud. My “habit” of drinking coffee came up, and I said I was under the impression that Ehud had covered me. He was right there and I thought he’d back me up, but he claimed having no recollection of ever having said that to me!!!! How convenient for him. At that point my husband tried to intervene on my behalf, and said he wondered if drinking 6-8 cups of mate a day (as many did) was any worse than having a cup of coffee. At that point Shoresh slammed his fist down on the table, completely startling us all, and said emphatically “NO amount of coffee is good for you, but you can’t drink too much mate because mate IS good for you.”
1. When my oldest son was about 10, he was out on the front porch throwing a soccer ball back and forth with a single brother. I was inside when he comes running to me crying. He tells me that the brother kicked him and he lifted up his shirt and sure enough there was a large red area on his chest. My maternal insticts sky-rocketed and I told my son to stay there and I went out to see what happened. The brother was nonchalantly tossing the ball and leaning against the railing when I went out. I went straight to him and asked why he had just kicked my son. He told me that Emmet had grabbed the ball from him. I let him know that he was the adult and my son the child in this situation and he had no right to have kicked my son. I then went and found my husband and expected justice to occur. Well, the brother did have to apologize to Emmet, but I also had to apologize to the brother for being “disrespectful in my reaction to him”!!!! I was livid. The men told my husband that I should not have gone to confront him, but should have gotten a man involved, so I was out of order and disrespectful. I resisted as much as I dared, but ended up giving him a half-hearted apology just to make the ordeal be over.
2. My 15 year old son got in big trouble for reading Tom Sawyer, and the person who gave him the book was “cut off”.
3. When my oldest children were about 1 and 3 I lived in R. We were so busy as women with the meals and house that it was hard to ever take the children outside. A family moved in from Spain that had twin 3 year olds who did have some developemental issues. One day the mother came to me and said “When do you take your children outside? Its’ so important they go out everyday for fresh air, sunshine and exercise”. I knew she was right and started making a point to take them out everyday, at least for a little while. We moved to Cambridge soon after that and I continued to take my children out every day as we’d got in the habit of doing- usually after lunch and before nap. Sometimes this meant I was a little late getting out to finish lunch clean up. After a few weeks, one of the elders’ wives came to me to rebuke me for the amount of time I spent out with my children (It was usually about 30-40 minutes), and told me that we should be teaching our children to serve (keep in mind that I made lunch 3 days a week, and at that time you had your pre-training age children with you the whole day, so this meant my now 2 and 4 year olds had been “serving” by my side in the kitchen for 3-4 hours already before nap time). She had a 4 year old son too and she said it was totally normal that an entire week would go by without him going outside and it was good because he was learning to serve. I told her I felt I was being given conflicting advice and I told her what the spanish woman had said to me in R. Her response was that those twins had “special needs” and those needs didn’t apply to all children.
4. When I was 4-5 months pregnant with my 3rd child, I had gained about 20 lbs. One of the women on my birth team warned me I was gaining too much weight, and let me know she only gained a total of 20 lbs with all 5 of her pregnancies. I had previoulsy gained 30-35 with my first two and had no troubles losing it after. I felt this was a horrible thing to say to a pregnant woman. But I knew there was an underlying issue. I had lived in Hyannis when I became pregnant with my second child. It was weeks after we moved into the community and I was so sick and still adjusting to everything including a very different diet. The people there were very compassionate and got me some special foods to help. One thing they got me was some steak that they cut into cubes and mornings I felt really awful someone would cook me some steak and eggs. I would feel like a new person after I ate it and one of the women told me it was the b vitamins in the red meat, they were very good for pregnant women. So back to Cambridge, I become pregnant with my 3rd child and start to feel awful again. I asked one of the other women if they thought it was possible I could get a little red meat since it helped me before and I told her what the lady in Hyannis said about the b vitamins. I then just waited and trusted. A few days later, my husband and I were called into a meeting. The woman who eventually told me I was gaining too much said to me “I have never heard of anyone being so selfish as to demand red meat when they are pregnant. Imagine if we had to get red meat for all the pregant women?” She then went on to explain to me how women in the “world” are spoiled and give in to their pregnancy cravings but in the community pregnancy is a time to suffer and overcome. I was in complete shock by this meeting. I didn’t say a word the whole time. So fast forward a few months, and I’m warned by her I was gaining too much weight (having been given no red meat). So then a really bad virus goes around and suddenly I am bed ridden for a week and can’t hold down anything but bone broth. I lost 10 lbs, but no one was concerned.
5. When my second daughter was a baby, I started having severe complications nursing her. We were living in R. which was an extremely poor community at that time. I was cracked and bleeding and nursing was severely painful. They tried me on so many strange remedies (including some kind of electrode therapy) then finally sent me to a doctor. But I had to very embarrassingly explain my problem in detail to a group of men in a social meeting before being given this permission. The doctor was no help (put me on antibiotics which did nothing) and I ended up moving to Cambridge with the problem still ongoing. It was decided I had systemic yeast and was put on a special diet, and had to do cabbage and clay poultices every day during my children’s nap. I was told I had to wean my daughter which I did even though she was only 22 months old, and I healed right up. So fast forward to my 3rd baby and when she was around 9 months old I started having similar problems. I asked right away to go see this homeopathic doctor in Bennington that other people had gone to and spoke well of. I was covered and went. She asked me extensive detail about my diet. Her conclusion was that it wasn’t yeast I suffered with, but I didn’t get enough protein from animal products and that my body was breaking down cells faster than they could be replaced and therefore my tissues were breaking down. She told me to eat…….red meat!!! At this point, the woman who had rebuked me for asking for red meat had moved to another community. When I told my husband what the homeopath had said, he right away told me to call this woman and “humbly” let her know what I had been told. I obediently did this, and the woman laughed and said “Emunah, this woman only has worldy knowledge.” She totally discredited the advice I’d been given.
6. When my oldest son Malachi was 5 and a half, he potentially could have started Alef training. Up until that point, he’d been with me everyday, mainly cooking in the kitchen. There was a list of things in the child training teachings that were supposed to outline when a child was ready for Alef. One thing being “the child can peacefully work at their Imma’s side all day in the kitchen.” Anyway, Malachi had his issues as a little boy and was not perfectly “in-line”, but he was bright and already teaching himself to read and I felt he needed the additional challenge. At the time my other child was 3 and I was pregnant. So the leaders had their “training” meeting, and we were told it was judged that Malachi was not ready to start. One of the leaders son’s was the same age as Malachi and he was starting. I was somewhat devastated at the judgement and so I went to talk to one of the leaders, who listened to me and then said that I was just upset because I was pregnant and was hoping to get my son out of my hair!!!!!!! When you are a woman in that situation, all you can do is humbly hang your head and accept your defeat. It does no good to defend yourself, you just end up in a deeper hole.
7. We were told at one point it was not good to listen to any music during the day (in your room etc.) because it would dull you from lifting up your spirit to the music at the gatherings.
8. We were told we were not supposed to compliment each other on how we looked or what we were wearing. It promoted vanity. Not long after hearing that, I wore a new jumper on Friday night and a woman came over to me and whispered “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but that jumper looks really nice on you.” Then she quickly walked away…
9. One time, after the birth of my 3rd child I was needy for some new clothes and summer was approaching. I had put fabric for summer clothes on my needs list many weeks earlier, hoping to get something sewn before I had my baby, but no one got me anything. So I was with my family on this major basement cleaning one Thursday night and came across an old trunk that had random fabrics in it. I found two lightweight, cotton pieces that would be enough for a couple garments. One was pink paisley and the other was navy blue with tiny white dots on it. Definitley not fabric I would have picked out if I’d had a choice, but I felt good about not being too picky and being thankful for what “our father had provided for me.” So I went ahead and made a pair of knickers out of the paisley and a pair of culottes out of the navy. I remember one woman laughing in good nature about my “polka-dotted culottes” and I laughed too and told her how I wasn’t going to be hot this summer wearing them. I think it was the second time I wore them, another woman came to me and told me I had to get rid of them, that I really should be more picky about what I make clothes out of. You learn more and more while you are there about “receiving” people when they come to you, and not being defensive, and when you experience the trouble that comes upon you when you are that way it really makes you be different the next time around. I didn’t get defensive, but just threw the culottes into the rag bag. I didn’t get any new fabric after that either.
10. I loved the children’s book The Ox Cart Man. It came up in a social meeting that it wasn’t a good book because it glamorized a family living their own, independent life. Also, someone gave my children a factual picture book of the Titanic one time. Without me knowing it, my son lent it to another child (they were probably 13 at the time). While in a “Parent meeting” the father of the boy whom my son lent the book (a leader) brought it up. He was vague, “Someone gave my son this book…”, I’m sure he knew whose book it was. It’s horrible to be in the hot seat like that, not knowing if you’re going to be publically rebuked. I’m sure my face was on fire. Luckily he didn’t expose us, but went on to say that if our children are given “exciting” books like that to look at, they will be bored of the bible and that’s the only book they should be excited by.
11. When my oldest daughter was 2-3 years old, it was apparent that she was an in-line child. She happily stayed with me and did what I gave her to do, and sat quietly through gatherings. This was nice for me because my little boy needed a lot more attention. So one day an older woman, whose daughter had left the community, came to me and told me I had to be creative and find ways to cross my daughter’s will. Basically do things to provoke a reaction out of her so that she would be used to getting disciplined. The woman told me that her daughter had also been very good as a little girl and therefore hadn’t been disciplined very much but it backfired when she became a youth and then couldn’t handle having her will crossed. I was told to wait until my daughter was happily engaged in something, and then tell her she had to stop and do something she wouldn’t like as much as a way to “test her willingness to obey” and bring out her rebellion which was in there and needed to be exposed before she got older.
12. We were told that families shouldn’t go alone on camping trips, but should go with another family to help each other judge ourselves. If we went alone, we might be more tempted to not follow the traditions while we were away, maybe getting chocolate, drinking coffee in the morning, or lowering our standards for child training. But if we went with another family we could “help” each other to stay on the narrow way even while away from normal community life.
13. Women were encouraged to only wear brief style underwear. I was told when I first moved in that wearing attractive undergarments affects how you carry yourself and could cause you to give off a sexual spirit. Of course many women secretly bought underwear they liked better.
14. My children often suffered from ear infections and would be up most of the night in agony. Their eardrums even ruptured on several occasions. We were encouraged not to give them painkillers like tylenol, but to use things like warm water bottles, and warm olive oil drops for some relief. When I questioned this, I was told by a leader’s wife that her daughter had suffered severe ear infections as a child and they never gave her painkillers. Now she is super compassionate when she hears of a child having an earache and it was her own suffering that caused her to be this way. (I still always kept a secret stash of tylenol and I know others did too).
15. We were told to discipline our children “at the dawn”. Literally. We were supposed to go into their rooms one time in the morning, tell them it was time to get up and then leave. After a few minutes we were to go back in and if they hadn’t gotten up yet then they needed to be spanked right away. The person telling us this (a leader from Brazil) proudly told us how his 5 year old would basically be still asleep standing up, practically falling over, but he knew better than not to get immediately out of bed when he was woken up. One woman ( a leader’s wife, which explains how she was even brave enough to ask this), said she liked to do a “gentle” awakening first, maybe sing them a little song or just sit on their beds and give them a back rub for a few minutes. Then she’d leave and come back after a few minutes and then tell them it was time to get up and get dressed. She was told that was fine to do those things but she needed to expect they would get right up after and not have to tell them a second time. (Discipline on the first command).
16. One day my older daughter, who was 13, was disrespectful to me. I reprimanded her and sent her up to her room. The woman who lived next door had heard the exchange and came to my room to ask if she could speak to me in private. We went in her room and she told me she heard what my daughter said and was surprised I hadn’t spanked her for it. I explained that she was on her period and it felt awkward to expect her to pull her pants down and bend over. She told me I couldn’t let that be an excuse for inconsistent discipline and that when she was a youth (this person had been in the community since age 9), she was always expected to pull her pants down or lift her skirt for discipline even when she was on her period. Another woman basically bragged that she was 17 the last time she got a spanking on the bottom. We were told to discipline in this way through a child’s 16th year.
17. When your babies reach 40 or 80 days old they are dedicated and the parents are sent away for a few days for some time together. After my 3rd child was born, we took our time away and by the 3rd day were having a really nice time. It made me realize I missed who my husband Chester was before the community. It took me a year to call him Aman, the hebrew name he’d been given, and I realized I made a distinction between Chester and Aman, like they were two different people. I finally was able to talk to an older woman about this because it was really causing me inner turmoil. After I told her that I felt that I liked Chester was better, she looked at me in astonishment and said “But Chester didn’t have the Holy Spirit!!!”. As though that was going to cause me to come to my senses! It just made things worse overall.
18. 3 out of my 4 children have had problems with bedwetting. It’s the rare family in the community that doesn’t have at least one problem bed-wetter in the family. When my oldest son was 7 or 8 we were asked by another couple to get together with them. You always knew that meant they needed to talk to you about sometime wrong in your family. They ended up telling us they felt the reason our son was still wetting at night was that we were not disciplining him enough during the day to keep his body under control. Therefore, when he went to sleep at night, his body just “let loose” all night long and stayed in that place of being out of control. This is a child who got so much discipline that his bottom was usually callused and leathery feeling. I always felt guilty, but was told so often that he needed more discipline.
19. I ended up inadvertently taking care of 2 cats that moved into the garage of the house we lived in on the farm in C. These were nice cats and I ended up getting somewhat attached to them, my children did as well. Having “pets” is not condoned, and it’s looked down upon especially with cats and dogs. Cats are tolerated only to be mousers on farms, a dog would never even be tolerated in “Israel”. So one morning at the child training teaching a single brother spoke up about how he notced “over-familiarity” with some of the cats and he had *even* seen them being picked up. When he said this I heard a woman gasp “disgusting!!!”, as though he had just said he saw someone handling roadkill or something. I knew he was talking about my family. I tried from then on to be more covert in my relationship with these cats. A little while after this, a woman found me a cute little cloth bag for $1 at a thrift store. There was a pattern on the bag of different colored cats, not cartoon looking, but realistic looking. I loved the bag because it was the perfect size for my bible and children’s notebooks for teachings. The very first time I used it, the woman who had said “disgusting!!!” came to me after the teaching. She said in a sad voice, “We’ll have to find you a new bag for teachings.” Puzzled, I said “Why? This is a new bag that Q. just found for me.” She sort of leaned in close like she was divulging some great secret. ”But it has cats on it.” she said in a low voice. ”So? They aren’t foolish cats”, I said. She told me that it could promote having pets. I asked her what was the difference between that bag and the notebooks we had just gotten the training groups that had horses on the front. She told me horses were farm animals. I said cats were also. At that point she told me I just wasn’t “receiving” her. So I opened the bag, dumped all it’s contents on the tea table (we were right in the main entryway of the main house in C.) and took the bag to Q. I handed it to her and thanked her for getting it for me but that I was told it wasn’t appropriate. She came to me later in the day to apologize for getting it for me. I told her I didn’t see anything wrong with the bag and was upset about the whole thing. (This happenened not long before we left, when I was really getting fed up with crap and becoming bolder in how I communicated to people). I thought for sure I’d get hauled to a meeting about my public display of disrespect to the woman who came to me about the bag, but surprisingly I never heard anything more about it. And no one ever got me a new bag either.
20. A rule came to us one winter that women and girls (as young as 10-11) were no longer allowed to wear snowpants because they were considered immodest. A single man in one of the communities was overheard saying he couldn’t wait until winter too see the ladies in their snowpants. So we were encouraged to make wool pants of the same style as the regular sus pants, or else wear a skirt over our snowpants. It looked ridiculous seeing women trying to trudge up a hill of deep snow to sled with their children on the sabbath wearing a full on long skirt with a pair of snow pants underneath. Enough people realized the idiocy of this, and by the end of winter the rule had been retracted. it just goes to show how fast a new “rule” can crop up and it doesn’t matter your personal feeling behind it, you are expected to “submit to the greater grace of authority” and be obedient.
21. When we first moved to C. it was fairly poor- before the shop took off. A man there used to do re-pack jobs for a store called steals and deals so he’d often be given free food. One time he was given a bunch of fruit popsicles. They were organic and sweetened with fruit and cane sugar. You would see “certain” children eating the popsicles quite often, but they were never just up for grabs and I was always telling my children they had to think the best as I was getting them a snack of plain yoghurt with molasses. So one Friday night the team decided to use up the popsicles for dessert. They did a graham cracker crust on sheet pans, melted the popsicles down and poured it over the crust and then refroze it. Well a certain leader caught wind of this, and Friday afternoon commanded that the entire dessert be thrown away, meaning there would be no dessert that night. He said that organic cane sugar was just a fancy way to say processed sugar and it wasn’t good for us and we weren’t going to eat it. So we didn’t.
22. I was really struggling with my belief one time and was encouraged to bring all my questions to the leader. We met up at the shop in his office. I asked him if it was really true that man didn’t have a conscience before the fall, since we were taught that God gave man the covenant of conscience only after the fall. He affirmed that was true. I then asked him how they could possibly have been held responsible for disobeying, given the fact they had no idea of right and wrong. Nothing in their existence led them to believe anything bad could happen, they didn’t know to be on guard against evil. We often called them our Father’s children and I said it would be like putting a crawling infant in imminent danger and why would God do that? Especially since he knew the suffering that would come upon humanity as a result of the fall. It just didn’t seem fair, and like it represented a loving God who really cared about his creation. All the leader could say was that Eve could have just obeyed and he was quick to end the conversation by telling me that I was “treading on dangerous ground” with my questioning.
23. We were told we would give people in the world a bad conscience if they saw us shopping at Wal-Mart because it was an evil coorporation and we weren’t supposed to set foot inside a store. People did anyway.
24. So many rules were coming out about everything from hair parting, to having to carry a cloth hankie all the time, cuffing your pants (as a man) even if they weren’t too long, bright colors and patterns were banned and women had to dye our clothes dark, drab colors, “short” sleeved shirts had to go down to your elbows, Dansko style clogs were banned (which all the girls loved, and somehow people who worked in the store were still allowed to wear them), if your shirt neck came to a “V” you had to safety pin it closed, no skirt could be an A-line pattern etc., etc.
25. There was a pond on our property and it was summer. We were told that we shouldn’t be seen “hanging” out at the pond for more than a half hour on a week day and that it shouldn’t be everyday and Fridays we shouldn’t be there at all. You felt everything you did was judged and you could hardly make a decision based on your particular circumstances without the chance that someone was going to have a hard time with you. There was a swingset rightt outside my bedroom window and sometimes I’d let my 12 and 9 year old daughters go out and swing together. But someone raised a concern that I wasn’t with them, or giving them a productive will but just letting them dissipate on the swingset.
26. When I lived in R. there was a nice sense of comraderie among the women. We spent time together as friends. We would have tea during nap time, or sew together or sit outside and talk etc. In C. it was not like this. The only time people talked to me was to direct, correct or instruct me. There was a particularly quirky woman who constantly was trying to talk to you when all the kids were going crazy around our feet and she just wouldn’t stop. I had the thought that she was starved for fellowship and wondered if there were ways to increase in that way in the household. I told a leaders’ wife of the way it had been in R. and her response was “Well their houses are always dirty and when I had several small children sometimes I’d go the whole week and barely talk to anyone who came above my knee”. So my concern went no where, and 7 years later I expressed to someone how I’d lived in C. 7 years and felt like I’d been in a work camp- I could cook and clean now- but I felt like I had no real friends.
27. There was a strict no talking rule for youth and children. One time I had just gotten home from a short trip to another community and I had taken with me my younger children. We went to the house to eat dinner and my younger children were tired so I asked my almost 13 year old daughter to wash the dishes for me and come home right after (we lived in a little house in between the main house and the shop in C.). I went over and had some laundry to hang on the line. My daughter showed up after just a few minutes and I didn’t think anything. A few minutes later I see a woman walking over towards me from the main house. She comes over and says “I just wanted to let you know your daughter was having a conversation with Naomi at the dish sink.” (Naomi was 14). I asked if they were mocking single brothers or something. The woman said she actually didn’t hear what they were saying. So I thanked her, which is what you were supposed to do. After she left I asked my daughter what she and Naomi were talking about. She said, “She asked me if we had a nice time in P., and I told her yes.” But it was a zero tolerance rule, so any uncovered interactions were supposed to be reported. It made going over to meals and gathering torture…..40 children all together and we were supposed to make sure none of them talked to eachother.
1. Sometimes during a Bar or Bat Mitzvah there would be games or a treasure hunt for the children. I was in charge of that one year with another woman. We were going to have little gift bags for each of the children at the end of the treasure hunt. Another woman volunteered to go shopping for the prizes. She got little rubber lizards, bouncy balls, pencils and erasers, notebooks etc. But community kids don’t get anything like that usually so that would have been thrilling to them. And it was, they were all ecstatic and it was fun to watch. About a week later we were all rebuked in the social meeting for including “toys” in the gift bags and the woman who bought them had to repent.
2. The children weren’t allowed any books in which animals talked. They were deemed foolish. One time a family was going on a 14 hour car ride and the woman found a board book for her one year old at a thrift store. It was a nice Eric Carle watercolor book about a turtle. She was a “good” disciple and gave the book to a leaders wife to judge if it was acceptable. The answer was no because at one point in the book the turtle is talking. Now skits were common there and often times it would be a skit about animals and the children would dress up as animals and TALK!!! I asked several people why this was acceptable, but they couldn’t have a book in which animals talked. No one ever had a good answer for me.
3. The word “play” wasn’t allowed to be used for children. You said “lets work with these blocks”, or “you can work with this clay”. The reasoning was we didn’t want our children to have a concept of play being fun and work being boring so we didn’t want them to differentiate between the two. It was funny though during a child training teaching when this standard was being reinforced and a woman asked if we should say we are going to work on a game of volleyball on the sabbath, or so-and-so is going to work on his guitar for celebration. There wasn’t a good explanation for that either.
4. When we allowed our children to “work” with their blocks, (it was always supposed to be our will, they were never to ask us if they could do something), we were still supposed to be directing them. “Now I want you to build a tower with the green blocks” was the exact example given to show that even then they shouldn’t be left to themselves to have their own independent ideas but should always be under authority and being expected to follow instruction. And yes, if you turned your back and they made a tower with blue blocks after you told them to use green, they could be disciplined for being disobedient.
5. Dolls weren’t allowed. Little girls were not even supposed to “play baby” by wrapping up a pillow in a blanket and pretending to rock it. That was make-believe or fantasy and was not allowed at all, and was a disciplinable offense. The reasoning given to me was that there were enough real babies for girls to help with. The problem with that was not every 2-5 year old girl had a baby sibling and it wasn’t like they could just walk up to someone else’s baby and start interacting with it, that was over-familiar and not condoned either.
6. I was given a manual entitled “Very Good” which was for youth girls. I was supposed to start going over the teachings with my 12 year old daughter. I wanted to read it myself first. There was a chapter entitled “Submission”. As I’m reading along I come across the sentence “Woman is to imitate a slave”. I kept rereading, not even believing I was seeing those words in print and knowing I was never going to teach that to my daughter. Of course the context surrounding that sentence was talking about how a good master cared for his slaves, and loved them as his own family, which then caused the slave to be so thankful and indebted to his master that he would willingly do anything to please and serve him. This was supposed to be an analogy for the husband/wife relationship. The book also had instructions for being graceful when serving men’s meetings and such and it told the girls to practice making figure eights with their hands to learn flowing and graceful movements.
7. Board games were dubbed “bored games” and seen as unproductive and a form of dissipation. People still had them though, hidden in closets and such. The only games that were approved were volleyball and ultimate frisbee. Not everyone enjoyed these games and one sabbath we got together a game of whiffle ball. Many who don’t normally play the other games joined in and we had a really nice time. We were rebuked at the next social meeting because whiffle ball was not approved of, because there could be a “hot shot”, i.e. someone who could hit a home run.
8. There was a dock at the pond with a slide attached that was one of the most fun things for all the children. The summer we left, the dock was nixed because sometimes it would be only be a few youth out there with no adult, and the adults on shore couldn’t hear and judge the conversation that was happening out there.
9. Like I’ve mentioned, children were not supposed to ask to do something, or for food etc. They were always supposed to only ask “what can I do now Imma?” and we were supposed to always have clear direction for them, or know when they might need a snack and be one step ahead. This applied to everything. One time for lunch there were several leftovers put out, buffet style. I asked my 9 year old daughter what she would like to eat, because it really didn’t matter to me if she chose leftover rice pilaf or quiche or whatever else was there. Normally there were no choices at mealtimes and I always made up my children’s plates. I was pulled aside and rebuked for giving her a choice and told that she should be eating what I want her to eat and not what she desires. (Somehow food and sex were connected. It says in the child training manual that if we don’t control our children’s appetites for food, we will not be able to control their appetites for sex.)
10. There was a list of things that had to be established before the race begins. One of those things was Wednesday Afternoon Affairs. This was supposed to be a time for couples to have sex. Half the couples, and the single people would take the children after lunch time, while the other half of the couples had time “to be intimate” in their bedrooms for a few hours. Then we would all go the gathering that evening, showered up, get our children back and give thanks. I was even told that if you weren’t going to have sex (a woman was on her cycle or something), that you and your spouse would do the childcare, that’s what that time was specifically for. Many felt uncomfortable with this idea, but most were not honest about it because there was a whole teaching about it and it was coming down from “the head”.
11. We weren’t banned from using birth control, but the teaching on it said “If Our Father wants to start a new life, who are we to “cut off” that seed? Maybe that child would be an important part in bringing about the Male Child and the end of the age and we just prevented that from happening.” So you knew it was strongly discouraged, even though no one said “No birth control allowed.”
12. Priestly garments were another thing on the list of things to be established before the race. This equated to two sets of linen, minchah (gathering) clothes for every man, woman and child. They would be made to very specific measurements and styles. Everyone was supposed to change into their minchah clothes before each gathering, and then change back out of them after for breakfast or supper so they didn’t get dirty. This sounded like a nightmare to most of us who had several little children and I remember really hoping that didn’t happen until my children were grown.