Smith's Friends: In Your Back Yard
"Blow your reason into pieces-every blow means death-BANG,
Brotherhood brings liberation from all foolishness--BOOM."
So goes an oft-sung chorus during a Sunday morning meeting of Smith's Friends (known locally as Salem Fellowship) at Macleay Christian Retreat Center, southeast of Salem, Oregon. With right hands raised above their heads, the entire assembly stands and sings a chorus or a song from their songbook New Songs between messages from "those who have God's word" or testimonies from other members. This is the third year of revival in the sect, which had its beginnings in Norway about the turn of the century and now boasts of "fellwships" in five of the seven continents. This is a revival which "will continue until Jesus comes," a revival whose opposers need to be treated as if they have "spiritual leprosy."
For those who have "jumped headfirst into the revival" and recognize Smith's Friends leaders as God's representatives on earth, the revival has meant a new chapter in life and re-newed interest inthe sect's activities - meetings, conferences, "work parties", private gatherings - all "centered around God's word." For many it has also meant a complete realignment of friendships and associations. In locations all over the world, "glorious brothers and sisters" have systematically blacklisted and shunned other members who have expressed criticism of the revival, its proponents, or Smith's Friends leaders. Long-term relationships have disintegrated, between friends, children and parents, siblings, and in a nurnber of cases, marriage partners. Critics who will not "humble themselves and repent" soon find that they have been given non-person status in the group. It doesn't take them long to leave, as 2,000 - 3,000 members world-wide have done in the last three years.
"'Smith's Friends" is a name applied to the sect by outsiders, especially in Europe. Members are fond of saying that they have no name and are "just Christians." Fellowships in North America have operated for the last twenty years, basically unknown. Salem Fellowship began about twenty-five years ago as the result of the efforts of the late Monrad Grannes and his wife Sarah. Sarah was rejected by the sect about the time of her husband's death in 1982 and still lives in the Salem area. Another chapter, Seattle Christian Fellowship, began in 1980 and meets at the Highline YMCA near Sea-Tac Airport.
Smith's Friends stress:
1. Self-purification from sin by 'the death of Christ," "crucifying the flesh", and "putting our human nature to death." This is accomplished by 'becoming a zero", "'shedding our own blood", and "eating our way through our own flesh." To the degree that members are "faithful and zealous" to do these things, they "partake of divine nature", become "spiritual", and are no longer "human."
2. Sole identification of Smnith's Friends as being "the earthly body of Christ", "God's crowning work on earth", and the true "Church of the Living God" to the exclusion and deprecation of all other Christian organizations.
3. Individual humility, devotion to "the brotherhood ", and submission to "the brothers", which in most contexts refers to the sect's leadership and other influential members.
4. A host of precepts regarding dress, music, TV, movies, dating, birth control and involvement with relatives, sports, politics, labor unions, etc.
Smith's Friends is controlled world-wide by a handful of Norwegian men, boasts a global membership of between 15,000 and 20,000, holds between $50,000,000 and $75,000,000 in real estate and other assets around the world, and is, according to the definitions put forth by experts, a destructive cult.
October 19, 1994
5: 17 PM