Many are the testimonies written and verbal by ex-members and their relatives which can be found on public domain. They come from different continents and span over four decades. Those stories are unique as everyone’s reasons for joining differ as much as anyone’s journey, spiritual or otherwise. Ex-members generally look back at their involvement as having had very positive aspects. Most think fondly, lovingly of their friends and relatives still members but grieve not been able to maintain a meaningfull contact if any at all with them. Very strict rules of contact between members and non members dictate so. These very personal accounts also carry a strong critique which can be articulated around the following recurring themes.
High level of control in all facets of a member’s life: information, lifestyle, travels, functions, finances, relationships with others outside including family, marriage, child rearing, viewpoints on the world, history, news. This control includes also micromanagement through fears and guilt complexes of the members’ sense of self, inner worth which leads to shaping their entire reality and their relationship with God and others.
Top leadership’s cult of personality towards Yoneq (aka Gene Spriggs): although very veiled, very real. Members tell of even the slightest doubt over the doctrine, interpretations or traditions from Yoneq on the part of the members are seen by top leadership as rebellion or treason. People find themselves easily disfellowshiped or even shuned or expulsed. A zero toleration policy for even the slightest deviation from Yoneq’s views on anything is the order of the day. Members speak of oppression, inflexibility, unfairness, lack of regard for their person. Many say that what they really desired, to be close to their creator and their fellow human beings was hijacked by Yoneq’s ambitions. And their spirituality was reduced to an exercise of blind obedience. So true spirituality couldn’t flourish in an ego-ridden environment. Many feel cheated, used and abused.
Very deficient education of children: The older they are when they leave the group the more ill prepared for adult life they are. Children who come out as teenagers have extra hurdles than the common child in our society and grieve for the lack of proper education they received and for having being denied a proper childhood.
Medical negligence/incompetency: Gene Spriggs and his wife HaEmeq (aka Marsha Duval) views on health management are “faith based” and take on a trust in nature approach. This has had good consequences but also insidious, sometimes disastrous or even fatal ones. Existing money is not made available for check ups, dental work and for health in general. Reliance on God comes down to doing nothing, more often than not as well as stopping members from getting the help they could have got from outside the group. Some members say they have been denied being able to ensure the health of their children. Generally the decision for taking someone to the doctor or hospital lies in the leaders and members are greatly discouraged from initiating anything. Couple that with the fact that the group might count 1 or 2 qualified doctors or nurses worldwide. Many ex-members speak of a higher than average incidence of still births and deaths of infants very likely the result of a lack of competency on the part of those put in charge of prenatal care and of course of supervising and aiding the labour of mother and child.
Child abuse: much transpires through the accounts, specially from ex-members parents and second generation ex-members. According to Spriggs, children that are born in or enter when their parents join have all but one destiny, to be an integral part of the group and bring about the vision of the group. Every necessary step to achieve this vision is a goal in itself, according to Yoneq the most necessary step is the bending of the children’s nature into absolute obedience to God, which is, to Yoneq and the top leadership. So children really have no choice and if they fail to believe as is expected of them they will have to leave the group according to Yoneq’s word when they reach their teenage years. By not fully subordinating themselves, they have everything to loose. Most children in the Twelve Tribes endure years of continuous, sometimes daily and prolonged beatings. These beatings start between 6 months and 1 year and continue sometimes up to the early teens. The damage revealed is extensive. Children are beaten for the most gratituous of reasons and live in constant fear of doing something wrong.