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    2

    How to Identify and Escape from a 'Christian' Polygamy Cult

    by Guest Writer James Wilson

    Dear Stanisław

    I read with interest your description of the 'Cult-like' tendencies of American Polygamy Ministries (APM) and similar ministries. My personal experience with Sheldon Brown bears out your analysis of his cult-like tendencies to an amazing degree. I write to you because I feel that you will handle this information in a responsible manner. You are free to reprint all or portions of the document or if you wish to round file it. What has happened to me and to others at Sheldon Brown's hand should be made public knowledge so that other families might not be taken over and split up as has befallen mine.

    I first came upon the APM web site abut 2 years ago and was immediately excited to find another Christian who believed in plural marriage. I had been plurally married for over 13 years but in all that time we had not found other Christians to fellowship with. I started corresponding on Sheldon's list serve and was very happy to have found people of like mind. At the time I was perusing a degree in Multimedia and Web design at the Art Institute of Washington. Sheldon requested help on his web page and I volunteered. Just prior to an important TV interview I redesigned his main page and helped him streamline and organize his web site to be more 'surfer' friendly which greatly aided his web presence during the enormous amount of attention his site received subsequent to the interview.

    I was separated from my first wife Angie at the time but Diane and I did come down to 'retreats' more than once to check out Sheldon and APM and to see what God would have us do. During those times myself and Diane were showered with 'or loved-bombed' as you put it and made to feel very welcomed and special. Sheldon advanced the idea that I move down to Georgia so as to help him full-time in the ministry with my multimedia talents and studio equipment. This was a very big step financially for us and we were unsure of what to do. However, I felt from what Sheldon said that he could help put my plural marriage back together through personal counseling and the community which was forming here. I decided to purchase a house in this little community in Georgia and God spoke to me and said that I was to offer Angie (my estranged wife) the basement to live in. To make a long story short we moved in January of 2001. Angie did consent to come down and we all set up a household here in this small community.

    Also in January Sheldon was invited to go to Africa by a fellow minister who believed in polygamy but did not practice it. Sheldon subsequently invited me along to film him and record his 'missions' trip. I have a very well equipped Digital video studio with a professional digital video camcorder and so I went with him to Nigeria (I paid for most of the trip for both of us BTW). The trip to Nigeria went smooth but Sheldon and the minister we traveled with did not get along well. Sheldon wanted to do what Sheldon wished to do but the minister whom we traveled with had a certain itinerary and felt that as his guests we should follow his arrangements. After about 5 days they had it out and Sheldon decided to back off.

    After we returned from the trip everyone at APM was very excited to learn of our travels. We had met many polygamous families who were Christians and had brought back footage of those meetings. It was the plan that I would edit and put together a promotional video about our journeys so that it could be sent out to the members of APM. We felt that if the members saw Sheldon doing mission work in Africa that it would help to raise money to buy the church building that Sheldon and his family live in.

    Unfortunately, to my surprise and to Sheldon's great consternation the anointing to produce the APM in Nigeria video began to leave me as soon as we returned. I could not understand why but since I am used to listening to and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit I found myself progressively immobilized in the area of putting together the video or helping him on his web page etc. I did not understand the reasons for that then but I do now.

    The big hurdle which was coming up that spring was that the 'lease to own agreement' on the church was coming to a close and APM would have to raise the approximately 60K to either buy the building or have to move. I had spoken with Sheldon much earlier the previous year (as did others) that something had to be done about financing the church but Sheldon never did make a move to ask the members of APM for donations until almost a month before the monies were due. As that time approached Jim (who also moved to Georgia) and myself had discussed possibly going in half each to loan APM the money to purchase the church if the church fund drive was unsuccessful. At first this seemed like the logical thing to do but again the Holy Spirit spoke to both Myself and to Diane (who was the one with the savings) and told us not to put up any funds for the church. Diane and I were scheduled to go on a week's vacation and I was instructed by the Holy Ghost to speak to Sheldon about this matter before I left. Eventually only 5 to 10 thousand dollars was raised from APM list serve members and Jim financed the more than 50k that was required to purchase the church. Jim currently pays the entire mortgage on the church each month.

    Sorry for being long winded but here is where Sheldon shuts off the 'love' and starts to shun...

    During our absence on vacation my first wife was not behaving well. She was upset that myself and Diane had gone on vacation for a week and so she started talking badly about us to Sheldon's wives and to Jim and his wives while we were gone. When I came back I was hauled into Sheldon's office and before Jim and one of his wives Candy. Angie had accused me of defrauding her with lack of marital relations. I hadn't had relationships with her before this time because in my mind Angie and I were just getting back together after a two year separation in which she had another lover and we did not even consider ourselves fully reconciled yet. However, Sheldon in front of what constituted his eldership basically told me that I would have to have relations with Angie or he would publicly do something...which was unspecified. Unfortunately, I buckled under at that time and consented to perform my duties but later that week I repented and told Sheldon so and that he had no business doing that to me. Moreover, in my absence Sheldon had questioned Angie about my former church associations and spiritual experiences to which I had told him was none of his business being as they were not relevant to the church now. He had agreed that these areas were none of his business in previous discussions but during my absence he plowed with my Heifer for information which was none of his business.

    This all happened within two weeks of me stating that I would not be contributing 20 to 30k to purchase half of the church for him. I was greatly shaken and my trust severely damaged. I told him he was wrong to have done what he did but he would not admit that he did anything in error. He blamed it all on Angie. From that point on myself and my other wife Diane began to be shunned more and more by Sheldon and his wives. At one point Sheldon did not even speak to Diane personally in Church for a space of 2 months while hugging and chatting with other members in front of her before and after service. Angie, on the other hand, was showered with attention and affirmation. My list serve posts started to be censored more and more until I eventually told them to delete my subscription in frustration. In services Sheldon started preaching 'love patriarchy' which in effect put all the burden of a plural marriages success or failure upon the man while giving my first wife Angie more and more public support to leave my family. I bore with Angie very long but my authority to run my own house hold was being eroded and taken over by Sheldon Brown. Angie and I eventually agreed that the reconciliation was not working out but I said that she could continue to live in our house providing that she was civil and respectful (we have a very nice home and the basement is very nice by the way). However, now that Angie considered herself 'single' she openly paraded the internet boyfriend that she had (even during the time she was trying to work things out with me) in front of my nose. Sheldon's wives actively supported Angie in the internet relationship which included inappropriate activities while she was still in my house. I was also constantly accused of not being a good and loving patriarch like Sheldon Brown. It got to the point where such open and continual disrespect was shown to me and Diane and in front of the children that I told Angie she had to move out of the house and into one of the rooms of a hotel that we own. Later that day two of Sheldon's wives plus Sheldon himself and Jim came into my house and helped Angie move her things into the hotel. She is there to this day.

    I was very angry...and felt like all the patriarchal preaching that Sheldon had done was nonsense. I realized that Sheldon was not patriarchal but Browniarchal and a megalomaniac to boot. I felt like I had had one half of my family taken over by Sheldon in his passive aggressive rage at me not coming up with 1/2 the amount to purchase the church. I started openly opposing him and pretty soon I was on the outside of APM.

    Interestingly enough about a month prior to Angie leaving me with Sheldon's blessings (his actual words were that "you should make it your full time job to get out of that place") a wife of one of the other APM members had shown up at APM and was living in Sheldon's home. When this instance with Angie happened to me I wondered about what had really happened with that brother and his wife who was living at his home. I emailed this brother and asked him what was going on with the situation suspecting that I might not be the only one to have had my family usurped by Sheldon. He wrote back to me that during a heated discussion his wife had left, called Sheldon and Sheldon had told her to come to live at his home without ever consulting this brother to ask what the situation was. This was a new wife of this brother and she was unwell and Sheldon did not think that this brother was handling her right according to his definitions of 'love patriarchy' and so just took over responsibility for her. The brother asked Sheldon to simply admit that he was wrong in doing what he did but Sheldon would not so much as apologize in any area. The brother said that if Sheldon would not apologize and say he was wrong that he did not want his wife to come home because he would have no authority over her from that time on (this was his new wife of about 6 months). Sheldon refused to apologize saying that he only did what God wanted him to do and that to apologize would be to make God a liar. The brother said to me that I was the only one out of all the members of APM (including his close friend Jim of many years) to write to him and ask his side of the story. Sheldon kept that lady about 6 months and then told her she had leave.

    Contrary to what the TV interview showed Sheldon's family is very chaotic and dysfunctional. Constant fighting between wives and Sheldon is the norm. I was present when one of his wives threw a large rock at him and when they both threatened to call the police on each other. What is portrayed on Sheldon's many media interviews and on his web page is a carefully crafted image for his public and does not reflect his household's daily life accurately. To Sheldon, testimony is everything and only a very few are ever allowed close enough to see the truth for themselves. Jim is Sheldon's money man and supports his church almost single handedly while government and child support checks make of the balance of the family's income. APM receives very little in the way of tithes per month from his supposed worldwide following. If you read his web page now you will note the recent turn of paranoia that it shows. This was done directly after I left because he fears that I will expose the truth about APM to the public and thus his carefully crafted image will be blown. I have wrestled in my anger and disillusionment of what to do in telling my story. However, except for a very few instances like this one I have kept my mouth shut preferring to Leave Sheldon and the Cult of APM to God. I would advise anyone who is considering becoming a member of APM not to do so for the closer you get to Sheldon Brown the more dangerous he is. His church is not about freedom but about glorifying himself...It is not about freedom but about himself. It is my considered opinion that Sheldon Brown is a cult leader and that he should be avoided by people for there personal and for there families safety at all costs.

    Sincerely,

    James Wilson (May 1st, 2002)


    Dear Stanisław

    I have wondered whether to share [this letter] with Pastor Miles [another polygamy minister] or not. Currently Barry, who is a con man from Africa, is working his way into Miles's graces (recently he made a trip to his country to visit) and is trying to work his way into the APM ministry. I associated and supported Barry for about a year after my last visit to Nigeria. However, I found out to my disappointment and financial loss that he is very bad news. I have tried a couple of times to alert Sheldon and Jim to this problem but since I am out of sorts with them they do not listen. Barry had supposedly started churches over in Nigeria and was saying that these churches that he started where under a certain Dr. Greentree (a polygamy friendly apostle). However, when Doc. Greentree caught Barry cheating him financially to a rather severe degree and rebuked him Barry went on the attack and spread viscous lies about Dr. Greentree both in Nigeria and to his wife here in America (Barry commonly writes to people using other peoples email addresses whom people trust to spread accusations). At any rate they were all lies and nothing come of them but the depth to which Barry sank when he was found out was astounding.

    Subsequent to that those Churches that were supposedly under Dr. Greentree are now listed on the APM site as APM churches. I have pointed the deception out to Sheldon more than once but he has said that it is none of my business and blocked all further emails from me. Recently Barry was allowed to post on the APM list serve and ask for funds to fly to America and attend the up coming retreat which is to be held in Arkansas at Will's place. If someone does finance his trip here I fear that he will hurt more people financial and by his vicious lies if he is found out. He is quite adept at using other peoples email addresses and at playing on peoples natural goodness but he is a fraud.

    Thanks a bunch!

    James Wilson (May 1st, 2002)


    The names of all the individuals, places, states and countries (except America) in this letter have been changed, as well as the name of the original polygamy ministry, with James Wilson's agreement, to preserve confidentiality. We cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of this account (since not everything obviously can be verified) though it does agree in many places with similar accounts sent to us by others from inside the organisation. The material is solely the responsibility of the author.

    The APM cult eventually fell apart and its leader abandoned three of his four wives with their children. Moving state, Brown set up a new and successful monogamy-only messianic ministry all the while concealing his background in polygamy (SBSK).


    Author: JW

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    First created on 11 September 2002
    Updated on 25 January 2016

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