Merry Jolene Berg

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CAUTION: This article contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and may be disturbing for some readers.
Merry Berg on the cover of the November 1992 No Longer Children newsletter (see: Merry's Story)
Merry's parents, Paul Berg and Judy Helmstetler (1971)

Merry Jolene Berg, known in The Family as Mene, was a granddaughter of the cult's founder, David Berg. She was born on 5 June 1972 to Paul "Aaron" Berg and Judy "Shulamite" Helmstetler/Pendell. She died in her sleep on 16 December 2017.

Merry was invited to her grandfather's compound in December 1983 at age 11, where she stayed until August 1987. During this time, as well as while attending Victor Programs and Music with Meaning, she underwent severe physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Some of the abuse was documented and published for all cult members in the internal publications The Last State?–The Dangers of Demonism! (ML 2306) and It's Up to You!–Mene's Farewell from the King's House! (ML 2524).

Merry left The Family for the United States in November 1990 when she was 18 years old. She lived in California, USA until her death.


Life in The Family

Editor's Note: Much of the abuse described below is disputed by Family leaders, many of whom are either alleged or documented to have been directly involved. Merry's testimony, however, has been categorically supported by witnesses including Ricky Rodriguez and Davida Kelley, as well as by Lord Justice Sir Alan Ward, a British senior judiciary who presided over a three-year custody trial involving The Family in which Merry served as a star witness.

According to Family publications, from the age of eleven Merry was regularly invited by Family leaders at the group's Music with Meaning center in Greece to join them in alcohol consumption and watching pornographic videos. At this time she was also filmed performing striptease dances along with other Family women and young girls, recorded for David Berg. She has testified that while in Greece she was sexually abused by multiple adult men, including Jeremy Spencer and Christopher Carruthers.

After moving to her grandfather's compound in the Philippines, where she reportedly slept in a walk-in closet adjacent to his bedroom, Berg repeatedly fondled her while Karen Zerby watched.

"I find that Berg and Maria came down to her bedroom and whilst Maria and Sarah were talking, Berg got into her bed in their presence and fondled her. This happened on a number of occasions. She was called to his quarters. He was invariably impotent and they did not have sexual intercourse though he once tried to penetrate her, so there is no evidence of incest strictly defined. He did rupture her hymen with his finger. They had oral sex. That was oral sex by him on her … At one point they went through a mock celebration of marriage. Maria was fully aware of what was happening."  — Judgment of Lord Justice Ward, 1995

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2005, Merry's brother Don Irwin stated, "Mene's first experience with full intercourse was with Ricky [Rodriguez] at the age of twelve. This was orchestrated by Berg, who wanted Ricky to get her pregnant. … Berg wanted to continue his family line through his granddaughter."

At age fourteen in 1987, after criticizing David Berg and confessing to seeing images of demons, Merry was subjected to extreme and protracted physical and psychological abuse, some of which was documented and published for Family members worldwide. Following are excerpts of one such publication, which constitutes a verbatim exchange between Merry and her grandfather:

49. I HAVE A ROD HERE. Will you please bring it to me? … You see this? Pass it to her, let her feel it. I want you to feel this, how heavy it is.

64. … If they have to use a rod to beat him [Satan] out of you, fine, you've got my permission! (Sara: Yes, Sir, I'll do it!) If you've got to slap her to wake her up & get her out of that kind of spirit, slap her! Slap her good! Knock her around! Let her have it! …

74. I'M GOING TO BE SUCH A DANGER TO YOU, YOU'RE GOING TO BE AFRAID TO SEE ME COMING! Now get out, you damned devil, & leave her alone, or I'm going to whack the daylights out of her! (She cries) Thank God, that's the first time I think I've seen tears! Are you sorry? (Mene: Yes, Sir.) But if you're not sorry, I'm going to make you sorry! …

81. YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT OUT THERE SOMEHOW? THE ONLY WAY YOU COULD MAKE IT IS TO BE A WHORE, THAT'S ALL! You wouldn't even be an FFer, you wouldn't even be doing it for God, you'd just be doing it for a living. You'd probably end up on drugs—a drunk, demon-possessed, alcoholic, diseased whore, & soon dead! Now is that what you want? (Mene: No sir.) …

114. … The Lord took hold of her head & yanked it around & back & forth & sideways to sideways by my hands till I was afraid I was going to yank her head off or break her neck! God was so angry! … And then I hauled off & slapped her I don't know how many times tonight, hard, right? (Mene: Yes, Sir.) And hit you!

145. … If it takes a good beating up to make you want to get rid of it, then we're going to beat you up!

183. … But if that doesn't work, then what can we do? We can't kill you, that's God's business. We'll have to get rid of you. …



190. MAKE SURE SHE GOES TO THE TOILET THE VERY LAST THING. I don't care if you wet the bed, dear, your hands are going to be tied to the sides of that bed at night …

194. … If beating you doesn't get the Hell out of you, then you're going to get the Hell out of here! Now I want you to memorise that … (Mene: If beating you doesn't get the Hell out of you, you're going to get the Hell out of here!)

199. SHE'S NOT TO BE ALONE AT ANY TIME FROM NOW ON! Someone is to be with her at all times who is big & strong & spiritual enough that … you just absolutely knock it out of her! …

215. DO YOU WANT TO BE DELIVERED INTO THE HANDS OF THE DEATH ANGEL … so that God can save your soul? … You may have to get whipped in bed, caned in bed!

Merry Berg later recounted this episode in court testimony, as quoted from Justice Ward's Judgment:

"I upset them when 13/14 because I began to realise grandfather was a hypocrite who made rules for people which were not necessary for him. He would write one thing one day the opposite the next because God was changing. He was very contradictory. He was a chronic alcoholic. It was very confusing. When he was sick he would drink and call different women in for sexual relations or sexual comfort. It was very difficult to respect this man when he was so drunk. I now look back at his writings as the ravings of a drunk madman. Another thing that upset me at 14 was that I was losing my faith in the group and in the prophet - all the things I believed in. I had violent pictures and images and they said that showed I was listening to Satan. They would say that Satan and demons were attacking me. I do not know if it was my imagination but I was seeing demons. In bed I would get out terrified because I thought the spirits would attack me sexually. I would try to cover myself up. I would confess to Sara, my stepfather, Faithy and others because I was afraid of Satan and wanted to be right with God and wanted the group's approval. They would slap me. Later they gathered the leadership together, pulled my pants down and spanked me publicly which was humiliating because these people were important to me. Six months later when my grandfather was told, he commanded them to beat me with his rod whenever I had violent thoughts or saw monsters.... Many times they would beat me, they took my head and beat it against the wall and bruised me. I was helpless and knew nothing else. My stepfather spanked me with his hands. It all felt like torture and once I fainted, throwing up. They said I was throwing up demons. The exorcising terrified me".  — Merry Berg, court testimony

Lord Justice Ward described it as follows:

"Who could blame the girl for lacking respect for a man so revered by others when she knew from her personal knowledge that he was foul mouthed, drank too much and sexually abused her. For this she was brutally punished. Her crime was to have yielded to Satan. That led to a time of two months when she had five major exorcisms performed over her. She was subjected to total immersion in the Word, full-time, with top leadership "reading aloud along with her to keep her mind and mouth and eyes and ears occupied and for a constant infilling of the Holy Spirit." They prayed over her, even fifty times a day. She was 14 years old!"  — Judgment of Lord Justice Ward, 1995

About a year later Merry was sent to a Family Detention Camp in Macau, where after further abuse including being locked in her room for six months, she suffered a complete mental breakdown. She did not at first receive appropriate psychiatric care, but after it was eventually provided she was sent to the United States to live with her grandmother Jane Miller Berg.

Merry with her aunt Deborah Davis, who has also both spoken against and been the subject of vilification by the group (November 1992)
Héctor Walter Navarro with Merry (November 1992)

Outside The Family

After moving to the States, Merry began attending a Bible college, but soon broke down again and underwent further psychiatric treatment. Upon recovery, Merry refused to live with her grandmother and instead moved in with Deborah Davis, her aunt.

She went on to give evidence of her experience in The Family during a groundbreaking child-custody case in the U.K. involving The Family, as well as speaking on American television about the same.


Merry Berg has been vilified by Family leadership to the point that many Family members consider her insane and possessed by demons or Satan himself.

Though the cult had long since been publishing internal documents demonizing and humiliating Merry, when she began speaking out publicly about abuse she endured from and under the care of Family leaders (see Merry's Story), Karen Zerby, Sara Kelley and others stepped up the offensive.

Among other such documents is False Accusers in the Last Days! (ML 2820), written by Zerby in 1992. Following is an excerpt of its content:

The Choice: To Believe Dad [David Berg] or Mene!

78.Some of the things our enemies bring up can be quite difficult to try to explain or defend, so it's not always the best tack to try to analyse & explain every little accusation detail by detail. Sometimes it's better just to say, "Okay, who are you going to believe? Whose version are you going to believe? Are you going to believe what Dad & we have said about the situation? Or are you going to believe what Mene said about the situation?"

79. Why would anyone in the Family ever believe Mene above the Prophet? Dad is the man who changed your life & who has faithfully given you the Words of the Lord all these years, whose prophecies you have seen fulfilled & whose words you have seen work! -- And whose fruit has been wonderful, beautiful, and far-reaching! So why would you believe this girl who very obviously went completely insane? -- Whom we know was completely taken over by the Devil, & whose life was one long fantasy, starting from when she was a tiny child playing in her backyard, & then through the years has lived in a world of fantasy & daydreams.-- A girl whose fantasies eventually became so real to her that she could not distinguish the imaginary from the real. -- Not to mention the fact that she was given over to the Enemy that she was heaping curses on people merely because they corrected her. From the time she was a little girl she was obsessed with spirits of exaltation & power, obviously not the Lord's Spirit.

80. She had those devilish spirits before she ever came to be with us. She's purposely yielded herself to those things & as sweet & as beautiful as she looked, & as meek & docile as she seemed to be, she was like a roaring lion going about seeking whom she could devour. (1Pet.5:8.) But the Lord allowed her true condition to remain hidden from us, so that we would invite her to come to live with us, so He could give her a chance to be delivered from those demonic spirits that were plaguing her & those terrible attitudes that were hindering her. We did all we could to rescue her, but she chose not to be rescued. We did all we could & gave her all the love & care & honour as Dad's granddaughter, much more than she even deserved, to try to help compensate in some way for losing her parents, & all those years she hadn't been able to see her grandfather, etc.

81. So I believe that the bottom line for everyone who hears Mene's "atrocity tales" is that they have to make a choice. And for people in the Family, that choice would be easy, because why would anyone in the Family accept the word of this crazy girl, who completely yielded herself to the Devil, over Dad's account of what happened? Of course, the reason there's a strong temptation to believe Mene's tale is because she's really got her story down pat, she goes into all kinds of vivid details with every person & what they supposedly did.

89. … She was fucking the Devil & throwing horrible violent curses on everyone around her, describing these in vivid, gruesome detail!

"And I got the most gruesome picture of Mene with her mouth all red & dripping, drooling with blood like a vampire! Of course, she’s just a little ignorant nobody, but it shows you how the Devil is using her. Even Deborah is just being used"  — David Berg, 1992:3

Life on the Streets

In June 2005, Rolling Stone magazine reported that "Merry is addicted to methamphetamine, turning tricks on Southern California beaches and struggling to stay alive.[1] Her mother has claimed that "She's just given up on life." [2] During this period friends and family frequently attempted to reach out to her and this eventually proved successful and Merry was able to quit drugs and get off the streets.

Late Years

In late 2006, friends and relatives reported that Merry was doing much better, had a good job, and was no longer using methamphetamine.[3]

In her last years, her family reported she was determined not to be defined by her suffering, becoming clean of drugs and reconnecting with her mother and family. She had a boyfriend and work that she loved and by all accounts of those close to her had found a degree of happiness that had long eluded her. [4]


On December 16th, 2017 Merry Berg passed away in her sleep due to respiratory failure.

Memorial and Eulogies

Second generation (SGA) members expressed their support across internet groups and a memorial for her was held on 3/10/2018.

The following eulogy was given at the memorial:

"I am honored to have this opportunity to put Merry’s life experiences into context from the perspective of someone who never met her but was nevertheless deeply impacted by the events of her life.

In the spring of 1987 I was an 11 year old child living away from my parents in Guadalajara in one of the hundreds of compounds that were then run by the criminal religious organization that Merry and I shared the misfortune of being born into. As many of us here remember, in these compounds there were mandatory daily readings of the latest missives from that cult’s leader. One day these readings described the violent torture of a child at the hands of the cult’s leader, who lived in hiding. Merry was that child.

It is an unfortunate fact of human life that on occasion we must face evils so horrific that the only rational moral choice is to fight these evils at all costs. When faced with these evils we must choose between resigning ourselves to them or fighting them with everything we have got. Merry helped me make that choice on the day that I learned of her existence. She taught me in crystal clear terms that this life is only worth living if its beauty and innocence and potential are fought for and protected. In my outrage at the way she was being devalued I found my own value. In this horrific assault on her humanity I found my own humanity. I made a conscious choice that day to be on Merry’s side and to fight against the criminal cult in which we were both trapped through no choice or action of our own. Now, in my 5th decade walking this planet I continue this fight. Fighting this fight as a child made me feel a bond with Merry: a camaraderie of the kind that arises any time that two human beings share a struggle.

Merry was a canary in a coal mine of horrific abuse, and her suffering alerted myself and thousands of other children to the dangers of the environment that we were born into. Merry was also much more than that. She was a child with a bright smile and an angelic voice. She was a daughter and a sister. She was a beloved friend to many of us here. She was a rebel against a system that abused and exploited her. Like any rebel with a righteous cause she should not be defined by the horrors that she rebelled against, but rather by the courage and tenacity with which she fought against them.

In the years since I claimed my freedom from that evil cult Merry has been with me. Every time I have had the privilege of helping a victim of violence or abuse I am applying the same basic love for humanity that I found in myself when I learned that a child was being tortured on the other side of the world. When I face overwhelming odds that seem to be stacked against me I think of that wee child defying her tormentors. They tried to break her, but her spirit did not break. They did their level best to destroy her, but her life force persevered. As I fought my own fight against that evil organization I found hope in the knowledge that on the other side of the world another child was facing greater horrors than I was facing, but she did not break. Consequently, I did not break. Thank you, Merry."  — By Andrew Stone, March 2018

More Information


See also


  1. Rolling Stone: The Life and Death of the Chosen One, Summer Double Issue 977/978, June 30-July 14, 2005, 122.
  2. Ibid, 122
  3. posting on a forum by "Anneke" stating in part "Just a note to anyone interested in Merry (Mene's) progress....I see her a few times a week and she is doing FANTASTIC and realized the 'curse' was a LIE. She is clean and sober and has a home to live in and a good job and has turned her life around.", 2006-12-24 and correspondence from another source to an editor, 2007-01.
  4. Correspondence from family members to an editor, 2017-12.