Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Yaweh ben Yahweh Cult

Going Full Time

By October 1980, the Yahweh ben Yahweh flock was 150 strong. They bought a dilapidated warehouse in a black section of Miami called Liberty City where Mitchell told them they'd live until the exodus to Jerusalem.

Most members balked at the idea of going "full time" and completely renouncing mainstream America. Ultimately, 30 people sold their homes and cars, quit schools and jobs, and moved into the skid row dwelling.

Yahweh worshippers in prayer
Yahweh worshippers in prayer

The building was huge, spanning a city block. Everyone pitched in to fix it up, giving the walls a fresh coat of paint and restoring the plumbing and electricity. They hung paintings of black Bible characters on the walls - a black Virgin Mary, Noah, Moses, a black Last Supper. Someone painted a futuristic city populated by black folks, complete with flying saucers. "The black Christ is risen among us today to deliver us from white people," the caption said.

They named the warehouse the "Yahweh Temple of Love."

They subdivided it into a miniature village, with spaces for a sanctuary, a cafeteria, a grocery store, laundry, health center, and even an ice-cream parlor. The print shop published Mitchell's propaganda, including a booklet called You Are Not a Nigger! Our True History; The World's Best Kept Secret " and a King James Bible with depictions of black saints.

In the living quarters, each family was zoned a 10-by-15 foot cubicle that was separated from the others by an 8-foot partition. Some people furnished their cubicle with mementos of their old lives, some just threw a blanket on the bare floor. There was no privacy.

They kept strict schedules. Up at 5 a.m. for chores, then prayers and Bible lessons.

Mitchell picked 10 strong young men, which he called the "Circle of Ten," to monitor the warehouse and environs. They carried wooden clubs, which they called the "staffs of life."

Mitchell's services accompanied by the thudding rock music and he was a master performer, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his black-is-better message. "Praise Yahweh!" they shouted.

As his flock continued to grow, so did his demands of them, according to court documents.

"How many of you would die for Yahweh?" he'd ask as he stood at the pulpit. "Would you kill for Yahweh?"

Yes, they'd answer back, they would die for Yahweh. Yes, they would kill for Yahweh.

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