|Karen Elva Zerby|
|Aliases||Maria David, Maria Berg,|
Maria Fontaine, Mama
Maria, Queen Maria
New Jersey, USA
|Spouse(s)||Steven Kelly, David Berg|
Karen Elva Zerby (born in Camden, New Jersey on July 31, 1946) is the current leader of The Family International, a new religious movement. Zerby, a U.S. citizen, legally changed her name to Katherine Rianna Smith in 1997 and uses the pseudonyms Maria David, Maria Berg, Maria Fontaine, Mama Maria, and Queen Maria. Zerby is the mother of Ricky "Davidito" Rodriguez and Christina "Techi" Zerby.
Zerby joined the group, then called Teens for Christ, in 1969. After becoming a private secretary to David Berg (the group's founder), a sexual relationship between the two developed. In a prophecy titled "A Prophecy of God on the Old Church and the New Church", Berg explained that he had been told by God to leave his first wife, Jane Miller, who represented the "old church", for Zerby who became his soi-disant second wife and who represented the "new church".
With David Berg's health declining in later years, Zerby began to take a leadership role within the group. Upon his death in October 1994, she assumed full leadership of the cult and married her long-time partner Steven Douglas Kelly (who legally changed his name to Christopher Smith, and is known to members as Peter Amsterdam or King Peter).
Pre-incarnation and the fulfillment of destiny
Zerby has claimed that she preexisted and was among Jesus' favorite lovers in heaven before she came to earth. In prophecies published for her followers, Jesus tells her, "You are Maria of the End, the prophetess, the unlocker of the mysteries of heaven." (Heavenly Birthdays!, ML 3193, Para.87) She is told that her birth was a turning point in the history of life on earth, and that she was sent to Earth so Family members may partake of her beauty and purity. It is also claimed that she has the power to heal by supernatural means. (Para.72)
David Berg's spiritual mantle
In the later years of his life Berg made it clear that Zerby would command the group when he died. Following are excerpts of an internal publication compiled from Berg's writings on Zerby, which she had published immediately following his death.
Senior Family leadership including Zerby have long attempted to keep their photographs and legal names from common circulation (see Category:Secrecy). Although by now most of the group's members have seen photographs or video footage of Karen Zerby and Steven Kelly, their identities and location are still heavily guarded by members working closest to them. Prior to being released here on xFamily.org, recent photographs of Karen Zerby, Steven Kelly and most World Services (WS) members were not readily available even to fulltime members of The Family. This long-standing policy was changed to a limited extent in March 2005, a few days after The Family's discovery of photos of Zerby and other top leaders on this website. This marked the first time that recent photographs of Zerby were made available to the public in nearly 30 years.
Family publications for children
- Our Queen Maria (MLK 124, March 2001) — Illustrated publication authored by Karen Zerby, explaining to young children why she is "Queen of The Family"
- More about Mama (HTK 95, July 2000) — Zerby speaks about herself to Family children (art by Jeremy Spencer)
- More about Mama – Part 2 (HTK 95b, July 2001)
- Many are the Helpers of Maria! (MLK 82, July 1999) — Zerby speaks about her numerous spirit helpers
- Karen Zerby replaces Jane Miller Berg as David Berg's wife (1.9MB) — From "The Love Prophet" documentary
- Karen Zerby addresses The Family: Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, Clip 4, Clip 5
- Lady Maria — Live cover of song about Zerby, by Family band Rebellion of David
The Maria Monologues
On a typical workday, Karen Zerby (known as Maria to group members) spends hours attending to Family-related affairs. Because of her position of spiritual authority within the group, her staff records her comments on a variety of issues. The Maria Monologues contain excerpts from the transcripts of these tapes, and provide insight into the inner workings of The Family as well as Zerby's character and leadership.
- The Maria Monologues #1
“… having sex. It's pure to us, there's nothing wrong with it, so we let our kids be in on it, we let them get in on it if they want, we even play it with them because it's nice, it makes them feel good & they enjoy it.” —Maria. 1990-12-12
- The Maria Monologues #2
“I have a feeling that a lot of our Family are getting the idea, maybe only subtly or covertly, that what we have printed & what we have preached is wrong.” —Maria. 1990-12-10
- The Maria Monologues #3
“Mene is trying to make Dad's sexiness look like the most evil thing in the world, when it's very normal & natural and common amongst many others in similar situations…” —Maria. 1994-01-11
- The Maria Monologues #4
“I guess it pretty much shocks us to see that we talked so openly about a child of under 11 having had regular dates with the men in the Home where she had been.” —Maria talking about Merry Berg (Mene). 1992-08-01
- The Maria Monologues #5
“If the Law of Love is right, then it applies clear across the board no matter what age it is.” —Maria. 1992-08-15
- King County Name Change Order — Name change from Karen Elva Zerby to Katherine Rianna Smith (1997-11-04)
- House, H. Wayne (2000). Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements. Zondervan Publishing Company. ISBN 0310385512.
- Lewis, James R. (2004). Controversial New Religions Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195156838.