Editorial Reviews: Heaven's Harlots by Miriam Williams

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Editorial reviews of Heaven's Harlots: My Fifteen Years As a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God, by Miriam Williams.

Publishers Weekly

For over 15 years, the elusive Children of God cult leader, Moses David, commanded a fold of 19,000, his teachings disseminated through pamphlets that combined quotes from the Holy Scriptures with theories that condoned arranged marriages, the use of sex to attract recruits and the separation of children from parents. In her first book, Williams describes how, in 1971, as a young hippie who burned to "live in the purity of Jesus' words," she joined the Christian fundamentalist cult (River Phoenix had spent years in the cult as a child). Williams soon found herself pregnant, married and forced into "giving sex in order to tell a person about God's love." Over the years, Williams says, commune life shifted from prayer, panhandling and street evangelism to hardcore crime, as David became more tyrannical. A high-class prostitution ring evolved that funneled thousands of dollars a month into COG's Swiss bank accounts. David's request (according to Williams) that couples practice group sex, homosexuality and pedophilia prompted the author to leave the security of the COG family to protect her younger children. Williams's painstakingly candid story provokes striking insights and questions about disenchanted youth, misogyny and the psychological appeal of cult living, demonstrating that the best stories strive to tell the truth and let readers draw their own conclusions. 16 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. Author tour.

Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Library Journal

Williams established a group called Safe Haven to assist former cult members after she left the Children of God, to whom she belonged for almost 18 years. This memoir was written to shed light on one idealistic woman's voyage into self-discovery, which for a time caused her to lose her "self." Born in 1953 into a fundamentalist Christian family, Williams found God when she was 12 at a Bible camp but was troubled about her calling until her first year in college, when she viewed a film entitled The Ultimate Trip and became convinced that the Children of God held the answers she was seeking. The book chronicles her experiences and the duties the cult's leader, Mo, imposed on his followers, including activities such as multiple marriage partners and sex with strangers to spread the gospel as well as to raise funds for the Church. After hearing allegations of young child sexual abuse, Williams decamped. This book illuminates one person's struggle with spirituality and obsession but is not a thoroughgoing critique of either the Church of God or of cults in general. Good popular reading but not an essential purchase.ALeo Kriz, West Des Moines P.L.

Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Kirkus Reviews

What comes across most clearly in this arresting, regret-filled expos from a former ritual prostitute is Williamss own identity strugglea struggle that, she notes, leads many young people into cults. As a young woman, Williams so desperately craved acceptance and self-esteem that she sought it in all of the likely places in the late 1960s (sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll) as well as in the more esoteric ones (a free-love commune that in these more puritanical times we now call a sex cult). What is most valuable about this account is Williamss long tenure with the Children of God. She was nearly a charter member, and 15 years gave her the insight to track the movements development from an offshoot of the Jesus People to a hierarchical personality cult to a sacred prostitution ring. By her third year in the movement, female members were encouraged to fish for potential male recruits by sharing the message of Gods love through sexual intercourse. Based in Europe, particularly in France and Monaco, Williams claims to have had liaisons with many high-ranking men, including the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Greece. But hers was an unhappy life. She faced prejudice by some who thought her motives were less than pure (including ex-Beatle Ringo Starr). She endured a painful separation from her firstborn son, Thor, whose father, a former COG member, had kidnaped Thor to save him from the cults influence. In 1986, Williams discovered that little girls in the COG were being shown sexually explicit material to train them to please men. Fearing for her three daughters, Williams left the cult and eventually brought the whole family to America, where she obtained a college education and established a network of ex-members. An absorbing memoir of life in a controversial religious movement. The appendix discusses the developments in the COG in the several years since Williamss departure. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


An explosive first-person account by a young woman who spent fifteen years in a sex cult called the Children of God, which encouraged "sacred prostitution" and taught that "The Lord is our pimp."

Miriam Williams was an idealistic child of the sixties who, at seventeen, accepted an invitation from a "Jesus person" to visit a commune in upstate New York. She would soon be prostituting herself for a perverse cult that used sex to lure sinners to the Lord -- and this is her shocking, searingly honest account of a fifteen-year spiritual odyssey gone haywire.

The Children of God turned its female devotees into Heaven's Harlots, leading strangers to the love of God by enticing them with the pleasures of the flesh. At its height, the cult boasted 19,000 members around the world: In such places as France and Monte Carlo, young women, Miriam among them, mingled with the rich and famous to save their souls, and in this unsparing, unnerving autobiography, she'll identify some of her high-profile "clients." She left this bizarre world in an attempt to protect her son, born through an arranged marriage and kidnapped by his father.

Now, in a clear, compelling, cautionary tale, she shares both her extraordinary existence as a holy whore and the daunting experience of rebuilding a normal life -- an ordeal that led her to found a group dedicated to helping other cult survivors reclaim their souls as well.