Re: The Living Word Fellowship, The Walk, John Robert Stevens
Date: February 14, 2022 02:42AM
A post by 'Saw enough' from November 2015:
Posted by: Saw enough
Date: November 03, 2015 04:13AM
What Larry Bobo said about a Shiloh pastor being interviewed and saying he could not recall praying for John’s resurrection was an example of LWF authority just reshaping their narratives for their own convenience.
Every civilization develops its narratives – its creation stories, genealogies, stories of battles won and how they came to be. Churches are no different. Martin Luther, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Ron L. Hubbard, the Apostle Paul, Jim Jones -- all claim to have had a unique experience that qualified them to be listened to.
The Walk had its own narrative – none of us were really around during its beginnings, but they involved special prophecies over Robert Stevens, personal appearing of Jesus Christ to him, changing his name to John Robert Stevens, and others. One critic of the Living Word wrote that every time the church was on the verge of a split or crisis, Brother Stevens would have another meeting with the Lord and be able to keep the group going. None of us were there – and we can’t really say for sure if the meetings were real or not.
The big vision of 7 years into the Kingdom came during another time of crisis. John disappeared for an entire day and when he presented the vision to the church later that week he said he’d been so overtaken in the spirit that he had no concept of time or space. The prophets at the Valley church all jumped in with theories of time warps in the spirit, and loud amens to the vision.
Many years after John’s death, a group split off from the church and there discussions around the Valley that one of the Blix girls was supposed to have told Marilyn that she was with John that day and that Marilyn was pissed about it but believed it because the story never quite made sense. Of course, John could have still have been with one of the girls and still had that vision into the future, but he could also have just made up the story as a cover for not being able to account for his whereabouts. Most people just accepted the vision on face value and then based their entire lives on it for the next 30 years. If John did not have the vision, it would constitute a huge betrayal to people who trusted him, even if it was only one episode in a long life of service to God. It doesn’t either invalidate everything he did or let him off the hook, but it’s been excluded from the official narrative. If Gary and Marilyn believed the account of the Blix girl, you have to wonder why they continued to reference the vision year after year, all the way into this year, in fact. Or again, perhaps they did believe her but they also thought that God still gave him the vision. They have remained silent on the matter.
In this modern age, can you afford to say “this vision was not ever confirmed” and still retain your credibility? What if the Mormons were to say, “Okay maybe there wasn’t an Angel Moroni and magic tablets and spectacles helping Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates. But the rest of our teaching is sound.”
Along the way there were other teachings unique only to them – the unequal yoke justifications to break up marriages or to remarry, the Mom and Dad era which lasted until they decided that they didn’t want to be everyone’s Mom and Dad, which led to the whole era of designated relationships and mentors and teachings about killing the male spirit, worshiping Christ in the flesh, Lamps of Israel, etc.
Gary has become the interpreter of everything that happens to the group. When John died, he rebuked the people who were feeling a release and peace in the spirit – condemning them for feeling satisfied when they should have been pissed over the lack of fulfillment. Later he said that he and Marilyn had noticed a lack of the spirit of Satan in the warfare, and concluded that it was because John had taken down Satan with his death. This was routinely proclaimed and accepted. Sometime after Gary went to seminary, Satan re-emerged in the teachings as a foe to be fought, and the leadership just revised their narrative again and denied that they had ever taught this. Then when other stories about John emerged indicating that he had not always been “faithful” to Marilyn – even though he was not married to her, Gary brought words citing John’s real sin as being disobedience. When someone like Bob McClane died, Gary turned his memorial service into a rant about how pissed he was that Bob did not overcome his weaknesses. When David Boney died from a car accident, it was presented as an act of bravery by someone who wasn’t afraid to go to the other side.
When Marilyn died, Gary told the people that their prayers had not failed, but that she had been transported to the cloud of witnesses and was still alive and functioning from her place in the spirit realm. He is skilled at handling the scriptures, including the Biblical view of what happens in death and after death. But his is also demanding that the people get rid of any confusion about Marilyn’s death and accept at face value his interpretation of what Marilyn’s death means now.
There are other options of interpretation – she might have died of old age. The healing that the churches had claimed was proof that they’d broken into miracles may have been a simple remission followed by a simple relapse. Her life may have been a mixed narrative of great sacrifices to support John and preserve the Word, and great secrecy and manipulation behind the scenes to get his wife out of the picture and herself as his mate. It could be a legacy of making a lot of people feel included mixed with a violent temper and anger that drove others away. Or pulling the pieces together of John’s empire during a difficult time and making it a more efficient group of churches and yet terrorizing a lot of people who didn’t match up to her demands by creating authorities who would enforce her philosophy of “my way or the highway.”
Instead of being instantly elevated to a place of authority in the cloud of witnesses, perhaps her spirit has been freed from her flesh and she is at rest, better able to see what in her life was true and not true. Maybe she found peace, maybe death just brings an end to all the turmoil. No one knows for certain, which is why most people feel humility when their lives are impacted by death.
A little healthy skepticism or a time of waiting for confirmation of these many narratives might have saved a lot of damage to people’s lives. But they are doubling down with greater certainty than ever before.
In many cases the people followed with a simple, childlike trust even while their leaders were more cynical behind the scenes. The end of bringing forth the Kingdom might justify the means in their eyes. But their willingness to engage in cover-ups and the whitewashing of their own narrative to appear more acceptable to the Christian world doesn’t speak well to a community that claims to be pursuing the truth.
It would help sometimes if these great movements would start by taking a version of the Hippocratic oath to “First, do no harm.”
I am not saying this to “bring down the Walk” or even say that God was not ever in the teachings or activities of the church. But for those who have decided to move on to a different way of life, you should know that perhaps you didn’t just “blow out” or lose faith – maybe you were being led into a better and healthier way of life. None of us can reclaim the time we spent there, but it’s still possible to have a meaningful life apart from their heavy hand.