I was born and raised in the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation. In the year 1993, I was already married and a mother when Tony threw my husband out of the group and damned him to hell for erroneous accusations. The Alamo Foundation was the only life I had ever known. At seventeen years old, in October 1993 I became the sixth wife in Tony’s harem. Tony was sixty-three.
If you had told me several months before that I would become Tony’s wife I might have thought you were crazy. I had never heard of polygamy until 1993, the same year my daughter was born. Apparently, Tony had my husband and another man from the group doing research on polygamy for quite some time beforehand. I knew nothing of it; neither did most members of the church. He was saving it, as a special revelation from God, to share with the members.
When he brought the first message, and I received the tape, I asked my husband, “What’s next? Drugs and alcohol?” When my husband reported to Tony that I had said this, Tony called me to his house and subjected me to over three hours of reprogramming. The bottom line was that if I did not accept polygamy, I was a blasphemer.
I know what you might be thinking. “So what? Just leave!” Unfortunately, it was not that simple for me. I lived my entire life within the foundation and I knew no other life. As far as I knew, Tony was the Lord’s Anointed and I was but a simple sheep in rebellion to his will. To further complicate matters, I had no money of my own, no job, no job history, no high school diploma, and no way really to leave unless I wanted to leave my family and my entire support base. The idea was unthinkable to me. I submitted. I did not understand it, but I submitted to the Lord’s Will.
After a few months, in February of 1993, Tony began talking about “virgin brides”, wives he would take who would remain virgins unto the Lord. I thought, “Well, this isn’t as bad as I thought. At least it isn’t about sex.” I was relieved, actually. Though I was still disappointed to see that Tony had already married four wives, only two of those wives had conceived by him and I felt that the others must be virgins. Then, later, in a move that angered me, Tony kicked out his ex-stepson, Kenya Williams, and took Kenya’s wife, Misheal. Misheal was pregnant with Kenya’s son, but Tony said the child would be his. According to Tony, Kenya was not submitting to the Lord and therefore was “cut off” from the Lord. Forever. God had said “NEVER” and that was it. Their marriage was over, and Kenya was gone.
Fear rang in our hearts. People had been put out before and there were people who had come against the Foundation with accusations. We knew those people would never be let back in. But God had said “NEVER” and that had not happened before. God could say that about any of us if we didn’t watch out. In prayer, I submitted to God, even though I did not understand what was going on. I had always loved God, prayed to him, supported Tony even when things seemed mysterious to me. Now God was no longer on my side, only Tony’s and this put quite a bit of fear into me.
Unexpectedly, it was not me that God cut off, but my faithful husband, the one who had done the research on polygamy, covered Tony’s ass while he was in jail by conducting financial affairs and keeping the bills paid and so forth. My husband only ever meant well by Tony, and saw him as a father, a mentor, a guide, a pastor, and most of all ‘God’s Anointed.’ One day, my husband was flying high, managing the office affairs, running Tony’s errands, doing special projects, and sending Western Unions back and forth across the country to keep the affairs of the church running smoothly, and the next morning, I woke up to Tony screaming at him on the speakerphone and telling him to leave right now, God is through. No mercy. I stumbled half-awake over to where he was but Randy motioned for me to stay put. He grabbed a few things and went out the door, down the street on his feet, because we had no car, just walking. I had met him at the door briefly and he said “Don’t make it hard for us.” “I’ll get you back” I told him and tried to kiss him, but he brushed away and shut the door.
From the speakerphone in the other room I could hear him asking, “Is he gone? Good! Make sure that bastard is gone. God won’t bless this ministry with people like him around. Insolent bastard.”
I was absolutely stunned. Tony’s right hand man, just gone over some….what? an office mistake? A misunderstanding? God could not possibly be THIS irrational. But apparently he was.
For two weeks I continued on as assistant in Tony’s office, living there and breathing grief and missing my husband who had wandered the streets, until I finally stopped Tony in the middle of something one day and told him I wanted to see my husband. He later had someone help us rent an apartment. At this point we had one leg in the foundation (me) and another leg completely and totally anathema (my husband.) I suppose I really did not believe God had cut him off and that is why I continued to stay with him and try to get him back into the Foundation. I could not imagine living apart from God’s Will.
A few months passed like this, and I could sense uneasiness in the Pastor, but I refused to acknowledge it for fear of what it was and for fear of becoming cut off myself. Then, one day he said, “You cannot be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.” I died inside. That afternoon I went to my apartment packed all my things and left my husband. It was possibly the saddest moment in my life. I had spent those months praying, fasting, begging God, begging my husband to do whatever, anything, everything, confess to anything, any moment of doubt, but please just make God happy so this could all be over with.
Writing all this today I can think of a million things I should have done, but truly, at the time, there was nothing I could think of to do but to wait on the Lord and pray and hope in his mercy, which had begun to run out.
The night that I became Tony Alamo’s wife (October 15, 1993), I had gone to speak to him as my pastor, the only pastor I had ever known, which even now seems like a rational thing to do. I approached him one evening, as my pastor, to please ask God for another chance for Randy. I felt that God did not want my child to be without her father, nor me to be without my husband. What ensued were several hours of emotional and spiritual deception and coercion. Just when I thought I had made my point, Tony would reveal to me a new reason why I had to leave Randy, and not only rejoin his group, but stay close to him. I was becoming more and more confused. I had never known another man of God. Tony had been like God to me and I had always thought he was honest and meant well; and how many times had we read “Touch not mine Anointed and do my prophets no harm.” If I protested about anything he was to tell me about God’s will for my life that would be an accusation against him. I could not accuse a prophet of the Lord. I did not have it in me. These thoughts were pervading my conscience and still I asked him to allow my husband back into the fold. I was willing to risk the anger of God, because I felt I could prove that I was right and this was all a misunderstanding.
We went back and forth for six hours. There were several times that I thought he had not only heard me, but been convinced of what I was asserting. He was being very kind, understanding, offered me a drink of water, said I was intelligent and not at all the way he had thought I was.
All at once Tony took my hand and said I was to marry him. Then he asked me to be his wife. I was very confused. I had gone to tell him that I must stay with Randy and suddenly here I was about to marry him. I started to say no. I was suddenly terrified of God. God knew how to play terrific, horrible tricks. I felt like a little ant. So this is what it felt like to be in the presence of God’s anointed.
Questions that never finished, before more questions invaded, spiraled me into confusion.
Here I was, seventeen years old. In another room, his five wives had my child. I was alone. I had no car. No money. No telephone. NO OPTIONS.
Would I go to hell? Would he do something to me? If I ran out into the street right now screaming, would he have me committed? I was terrified, not of just him, and the person he was, but also of the person he represented to me as God’s Anointed. My baby was in the other room with Sharon Kroopf, Lydia Willis, Jody, Isabel Mendoza, and Misheal Jones-Williams, his five wives. I wanted to go and get her. If I left would God kill my baby? Would they have even given her back? They were after all praying for God to cause me to see the error of my ways and concede to being his wife. That way they would be blessed too. I felt angry and felt that I had been tricked into coming to his house that night. He knew what I wanted. He pretended that he would give it to me and instead presented a high stakes bargain: If I married him that was the only hope Randy would have of ever being let into heaven. God was a God who could kill me in an instant if I displeased him. Tony was the only one who had the power to save my husband from hell. Hesitantly, I prayed. Words, words, and more words went round and round in my head. Something tried to creep in, some inkling of truth, but I was not able to grasp it. I could not think. The Alamo Foundation had been my life. Every message I had heard was from Tony’s lips. My education was from Tony’s perspective, my worldview was Tony’s worldview, my voice was his voice, my thoughts were supposed to be as close to his thoughts as possible. All that I knew about God I had learned from Tony or someone who was close to him. I opened my eyes.
The fleeting particle of another option left and suddenly he made so much sense and I was the stupid one. He squeezed my hand and said, “You haven’t answered me.” in a tone that meant “God is displeased with you.” I knew then that there was no way out. I thought I would just say yes, then grab my baby and leave. I had no car, so I would have to walk in the dark streets. I had no telephone, and no money. I said “yes.” Immediately I felt remorseful. My love, my life. It had all vanished in a second. “He who finds his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life shall find it.” How many times had I heard that scripture? Now I finally knew what it meant. He squeezed my arm and said “Good girl.” I felt relieved, like I had bought some time from God and I started planning. I would go get my child, tell him I’d see him in the morning and never come back. He said some words that I don’t remember and kissed me on the head. I could not even lift up my head for the sadness of physically betraying my husband, but I was afraid. Afraid he might see it and God might be angry with me.
In my mind I cried out “No! I change my mind, you misunderstand me!” but I was mute with fear and confusion. This was a sacrifice, like the one Abraham had to give when he offered his son Isaac. At any moment God would descend, strike the knife from his hand, and I would be free. Then he asked me if I wanted to go in the “other room.” At first I thought he only meant the conference room, where my baby was. But he was expecting something, I could tell. He watched me closely. Then I knew. The other room was his bedroom. Fear shot through body and I told him that I did not. I was trying to figure out how to get out of it. What happened to the whole “virgin bride” thing? In that moment, I wanted to run away back home, back to my own sweet husband who would rather me never know of his love than to force himself on me. Patiently, Tony waited–five minutes. He asked me again, and again I said “no.” He stood up, took my hand and tugged me in that direction. From there on, I was in victim mode, a surveyor of my actions, non-participant in the decisions. Moments before, I had a plan. A simple plan but a workable one. That disintegrated when I realized that he very much meant for me to have sex with him, right then. I was smitten. I tried to act cool and change the subject. He pulled my arm in anticipation and took me in the other room.
My blood ran cold. My mind was still, but my heart raced faster than I knew it could. I don’t really remember what happened next but somewhere a voice, I don’t remember whose, told me that the marriage must be consummated. I thought “Well, not now. I have to nurse the baby first.” That was already taken care of. As if he read my mind, he smirked and signaled to Misheal and Sharon and they said “She’s asleep.” I felt a tinge of anger, but stayed with my hand on the back of a chair, while he cleared the bedroom and took me. My emotional consciousness watched, begging for mercy, as I entered the dark room, and he lay me on the bed. He asked me over and over what was wrong until I realized that I was shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. He said something like “Women get emotional about this.” I sucked it in, not wanting to be a woman, not wanting to give him anything I didn’t have to. I asked him what he was doing to me. The clock across the room had red glowing numbers—so fitting. Looking back I can only describe it as a heart that had once been mine had been stolen from me, cut from my person, and I was left to emotionally bleed to death on the bed. I thought I would vomit.
He kept saying, “the blood of Jesus is against you Satan” over and over again. My fear was that I was Satan and that Jesus’ blood would come and kill me as I lay there doubting every thing I had ever known, even doubting my human existence. Finally it was over. The cold breeze of the air conditioner went on. I turned over and cried silently. I missed my husband. The worst night of my life and he wasn’t there to hold me.
I was officially “broken in”, if you want to call it that. I was now desensitized and reprogrammed into being his “wife.” The next morning Tony told me never to think of Randy again. I was sitting in the corner of the room with a headache and sobbing again. Adultery wasn’t in me, just a desire to do God’s will. He said that God would cut me off if I thought of my husband. I was not even to speak his name. Tony spoke of Randy and his (Tony’s) triumph often and every time he did, my emotions were fractured into shards of grief and anger. This was the beginning of two and one half years of abuse, including psychological and emotional trauma, sleep deprivation, and numerous fasts, up to three weeks at a time. And always the quest to know “Are you thinking of him?” thrust upon me in unsuspecting moments. I was seventeen. My life, already, was pretty much over.
In 1993 and ’94 while I was living with Tony in his house, I witnessed 15yr, 16yr, 17yr, and 18 year olds living as Alamo’s “wives” going into his bedroom and it was common knowledge amongst ourselves that we were all having sexual relations with him. Lydia Willis was pregnant with Tony’s baby and delivered Tony’s son, Tabor, while I lived there. In December of 1993 he added Angel Streit to his harem and Jody left his house around the same time. In January 1994 he married Elizabeth “Lizzy” Gutierrez who had just turned 16 and Jeannette Orlando who was just 15 years old. Tony Alamo confided in me that he had spanked Isabel, one of his other “wives”. In late 1994 and 1995, from prison, Tony claimed to have received revelations from God to marry nine and ten year old girls and in the summer of 1994 he had 9 year old Eliza V, the first of these virgin brides visit him in prison in Memphis, Tennessee. Later, in 1995 he had Katrina and Darlene F., more of these young “virgin brides” visit him in the prison at Florence, CO. While there, the little girls would sit on his lap and he would talk dirty to them. Since he had us older ones (Sharon, Isabel, Angel, Jeannette O, Lizzy G) rub near his groin and he fondled our breasts and if possible other anatomy, I assumed he was doing these things to these younger girls also. We had an unspoken code to look away from him while he was “visiting” with another wife.
In January 1996 I was kicked out of his house under enormous pressure of not having completed a project (which was physically impossible to complete in the manner in which he requested.) He said God would kill his son, Sion, if I was to stay. Actually, I was relieved. I then went to stay with my parents in Arkansas who were with the regular part of the congregation. Tony called me and asked me to repent, and I refused. I had enough of being a battered wife. He had intended to maintain some control over me and when I would not fall for it he said I could not leave, but he would kick me out. Why did I leave? Not because America is a free country, because I had no idea what freedom looked like. I left because my child was turning three. My mother-heart was waking up to the realization that someday, my little girl would become a young woman, and I did not want this for her. In conversations, Tony had also described sexually perverted acts that he intended to do with us when he was released from prison, including beatings and orgies. I decided that I had had enough. I wanted to be a good mother, I wanted to live a good life. If God was mad at me, so be it. I had to move on. Later, after I left, Tony continued to harass me with letters of condemnation, threatening that I would get cancer and die or be killed in a car accident. He continued to remind me that I was damned to hell. It took years of counseling to end the nightmares and fears that had been instilled in me. Tony calls it the “fear of the Lord.” In reality it was fear of life, fear of making a mistake, fear of being alone, fear of being responsible to myself. He taught us fear, and it worked. That is how his cult continues to survive.