OF BONDAGE - Chapter 9
By Wayne Hamburger
GOSPEL ASSEMBLY DOCTRINES AND THE TEACHINGS OF THOMAS M. JOLLY
This chapter is directed at the specific teachings of T. M. Jolly which ruled the lives of Gospel Assembly members, including Wayne and Mandel and their families. Jolly's messages were repeated hundreds of times throughout the 57 years of his ministry. Those who remained loyal to him for any length of time could almost predict what scripture he was going to use next in his sermons because they became so repetitive. One could also quote word for word the personal experiences he would use to back up his teaching. In March of 1975, some members of the church staff compiled a series of Jolly's messages and distributed them in a loose leaf format. The title of the compiled data was called, "The Art of Worship." The following passages were a part of that material which consisted of sermons preached by Jolly:
"It comes to me more forcibly all of the time that one of the responsibilities of this Body of people is to restore the lost art of worship. We have approached the task of trying to unify the hearts and minds of the people to bring to fruition a systematic and orderly approach to contacting the Spirit of God. This Body of people has been called to accomplish a partic ular work for the Lord, different than all other religious bodies of this world. The church lost the art of worshiping God after the new testament order to a man-made order of worship at the beginning of the dark ages. Will you join with me to build a perfect church? I must have men who will work with me and help me before I can build a perfect church. I must have men and women who will work with me and take the message I have. You are sitting among the people God has called to restore the Church. I know that God has called me for that purpose. I am not blind. I am not in the dark. I have been working for God for forty years and He has called me and directed me and has let me know what my work is on this earth. I know that I have a voice crying out that is going to help to restore the church. It is going to bring the church out of the wilderness. This is my burden. This is my responsibility."
"A few people will get down to business and strive until we have perfected our lives. We will make up the remnant God is calling for in these last days. You will see nothing but perfection and you will strive for it. Take interest in the doctrines of the Bible and learn the teachings of the Body of Christ. You cannot be an overcomer without a certain amount of knowledge of the word of God. The time has come that God must have a church in the earth long enough before He can judge the earth. Why would anyone leave this church and look for something new? Some look for something new instead of something true.
"The men should be the first to lead out and respond to the spirit. They should come to the front with their devotion and worship to God. Then the sisters can follow. You men are entirely cold in your spirit. You are too stout in your own spirit and not humble enough. You are too lazy, too unconcerned and the Lord is displeased. The early church leaders knew what they ought to do and they did it. They knew their place and they filled it. They didn't back up for a woman. A woman has now been appointed president of the National Council of Churches here in the United States. Are we going to sit back and let women rule us and take the lead? Are we going to sit back and be sissies and tie our religion to the apron strings of women? Women were not leaders in the early church. If Jesus had equaled the women with the men, He would have put a few women in the formation of the ministry of the early church. Jesus didn't put a woman in any place. None at all! The women kept silent in the church and didn't come to the front at all.
"ORDER! ORDER! Order is a place for everything and a time for everything. Anything that doesn't work like that is disorder, chaos, and bedlam and will soon come to destruction. God blesses order and everything in its place. God didn't intend that women be the head of anything in this world. A woman has a wonderful, sweet place that glorifies God and exalts the kingdom of God if she stays in the place God has given her. When a woman gets out of her place, she is the most disgusting thing that ever lived. A woman who gets out of her place will lose out with God. So, we must have order.
"How good it is to show repentance when you are rebuked. Sometimes we have to eat humble pie, and how good it is when we are willing to do it. Let's work together and any time you don't want to work with me, then you just don't belong with me anymore. You are a black sheep. You are a goat. I have been waiting for years for people who will work with me. Will you be one who will work with me and help me? Don't get lazy. Don't be unconcerned. Don't shift your burden to someone else."
"I am called and anointed of God. The Holy Ghost leads me and teaches me. I know the music God wants. I know when we are singing the wrong song. I know when a song has the wrong words. I know when a song is sung too long or not long enough. I know when people are singing with exalted spirits. The Holy Ghost has talked with me by the hours teaching me these things.
"The time is getting late. We have approximately ten years until the church is to be restored. God is going to have a restored church. If you don't follow the leadings of the spirit, God will bypass you and get people who will. God has made me the Governor of the Body of Christ and has put me with a group of ministers to restore the Church of Jesus Christ. He has given me this congregation of wonderful people to respond to my message. Will you help me? Will you cooperate with me? If you don't have a vision of what I am working on, and if you haven't consecrated your life and honored the message by now, God help you! It will be just a few short years until the church will be restored. It will influence and attract millions of people. Do you want to be a part of it? Would you like to see a church operating in the perfect order of God? Do you love the Lord enough to qualify to be in it? Do you love Jesus and want to see him happy? Would you like to do something to cause the Lord to hover around you and protect you because of your good life? Would you like to have your minister say you are a wonderful church and that you are cooperating with your minister? Does this message condemn you? You will answer that question by the way you respond to it. Can you feel this strong appeal I am making? Can you feel me pulling on your heart to respond? If we ever get enough power, wisdom, order, and zeal in our church to perfect one overcomer, we will have enough to perfect forty thousand.
"This is the reason I say you have to be around here about ten years before you amount to anything. You have to study and go through your training. You must read, pray, watch and be on the job. Stay with the church and study hard. After you are here about ten years you will learn how to act and how to offer your sacrifice.
"There is an art of worship. There is a technical way to touch God and let the mighty power of the Holy Ghost flow in our midst. Are you thinking? Are you listening to me? Did you turn me off? What have you been thinking while I have been talking? Put a girdle around your mind and bring every thought into captivity.
"God administers to us through channels. The Holy Ghost works in channels just like the Mississippi River runs in a channel. The seven pillars: God, Jesus, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers, these are the channels of God as described in Proverbs 9. Before a man can work in one of the offices of the ministry efficiently, he must have a touch of all the five offices of the ministry. The apostle does the feeling because he is responsible for the whole church. He has the care of the whole church. He is in contact with the entire body, therefore he must be able to feel from the top of his head to the soul of his feet. I am watching the spirit in the body. I am seeing an advancement in love, solidity, and solemnity that is fascinating. We are getting closer to God and He is getting closer to us."
Of course, Jolly believed he was the latter-day-apostle and convinced his following of it as well. He must have undergone some self-doubt when talking about perfection. He had to be fighting personal demons, if he had any conscience at all. The fact that he was engaged in illicit activity as a pedophile didn't seem to slow him down any as a minister.
The paradoxical reality was that his followers often shouted and spoke in tongues during his sermons, which to them was convincing that the messages were from God. Great outpourings of the Spirit of God enveloped the congregation during and after Jolly's sermons. Wayne had witnessed that on several occasions and is at a loss to explain an evil and good present in the same set of circumstances. Jolly reveled in the fact that the members manifested in that manner during and after his talks.
Jolly developed a charisma that betrayed the real person inside the outward persona. His eyes could be hypnotic and Wayne is convinced he used that tactic to sway his listeners. His power of suggestion rivaled that of the greatest politicians and evangelists. During Jolly's early ministry, he could captivate audiences for hours. As an example, he would convene a church service in Eldorado at 10:00 A.M. on Sunday morning and continue until 5:00 P.M. or even 6:00 P.M. He gave his congregation a short break for a meal and resumed service at 7:30 P.M. Sunday night. That evening meeting could continue until midnight or later. Regular church services were also held on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights from 7:00 P.M. until the wee hours of the morning. It goes without saying that humans who could endure such marathon sessions would almost have to be under some type of hypnotic trance.
Jolly could recite scriptures by the hundreds. He once boasted that he had quoted more than 400 scriptures in one service. He encouraged members to write down the scripture numbers and then read them in the privacy of their homes. He insisted that members bring three things to every church service: a Bible, a notebook, and something with which to write. He often asked the members to hold up their Bibles and notebooks so that he could see that everyone was complying with his orders. He had convinced himself that he was a brilliant teacher. He often said that he could outwit any Bible scholar, including those who taught at the leading seminaries. He would gasconade that anyone could parade these scholars before him and he would confound them with his knowledge of the Bible. He really believed that he knew the Bible better than anyone and he wasn't bashful about saying it to any audience.
He loved to challenge any minister who was brave enough to attend one of the church services at Gospel Assembly. It was something like a pride of lions devouring an antelope. Jolly would rally all of his associates to speak and take turns making disparaging remarks about the visitor's religious beliefs. Any minister either brave or dumb enough to endure such harassment left the church building in a state of confusion, bewilder ment, defeat or anger. Some ministers felt all those emotions. Few came back for a repeat of that type of treatment. Church members would congregate after the service to slap each other on the back and congratulate Jolly and his preachers for getting the best of the visiting preacher.
Wayne was originally dazzled by Jolly's scripture quoting. He spouted them out so fast that no one could get them down without knowing shorthand. Later, when Wayne methodically searched the scriptures that had been quoted, he found that many were inaccurate. He would tell his audience that a certain scripture was located in Ephesians when it was located in some other book of the Bible. When Wayne called this to the attention of some of the members, they hushed him up immediately, telling him that he was inviting the wrath of God by criticizing Jolly.
Jolly loved to give reading assignments to the church members. Often, he ordered the listeners to read certain chapters in the Bible before retiring for the night. After one has attended a five-hour parley listening to hundreds of quoted sections of the Bible, the very last thing he wants is a reading assignment from it. Imagine arriving home at 2:00 A.M. sleepy and tired and feeling guilty because you don't want to read your Bible.
Jolly seemed to be completely oblivious to the needs of his parishioners. He could not or would not recognize when they were becoming tired, bored, sleepy or inattentive. He coaxed the members into training their bladders so that they would not have to go to the bathroom during his sermons. Beryl Clark testified to the fact that he trained his bladder as Jolly told him to and could sit for hours without relieving himself. The results of that compliance ended up with Beryl Clark in the hospital for the removal of a cancerous kidney. Jolly accepted no responsibility or felt no remorse when some of his instructions went awry or caused problems. He, as master controller, did not have to account for his actions or words.
Jolly boasted that he could control the Spirit of God in a church service. He claimed to be able to discern whatever it was that could hinder God's Spirit. After identifying it, he then proceeded to eliminate the hindrance. Whatever action he chose to take depended upon the mood he was in at the moment. He used such tactics as the one to which he referred as "an object lesson." When someone other than himself, drawled on for what seemed like hours, he would take whatever course of action that amused him at the time. Sometimes he would allow a boring speaker to go on and on as an object lesson for the membership. At other times, he would abruptly interrupt and tell the speaker he had talked long enough.
He led the people to believe that he could direct a blessing from God to them personally. He was totally and thoroughly unpredictable and worshipers never knew what to expect from Jolly. The very worst thing for anyone to do was to try to predict what he would do or say. He was under the delusion that his unpredictability was convincing his followers that he was being led of God. He could rationalize his actions by falling back on the excuse that he was only following God's wishes. It did keep the worshipers off guard and guessing. Just when someone thought they had him figured out, he would do something outlandishly foolish.
Jolly placed great emphasis on order. He prided himself on the establishment of discipline designed to keep his followers in line, in spite of adversity. The accentuation of order was a maniacal trait. What he really created was extreme fear by the people of his churches. They were afraid of God's retribution, but they were even more afraid of Jolly's retaliation which was sure and swift. The leaders of Gospel Assembly churches belabor the point that they have created a wonderful order in which God is allowed to work. These leaders convinced the members that the order was directed by God through the Bible. In reality, the order came from the demented mind of Jolly and had nothing or little to do with God's plan for mankind. Jolly was convincingly successful in making the followers believe that he had the blueprint for God's perfect order on earth. The standards of dress, appearance, and behavior were merely following the perfect order of God and were necessary for His plan.
Jolly usurped the same authority as he envisioned as was given to Paul the Apostle. He liked to quote Paul: I Corinthians 14:40, "Let all things be done decently and in order;" I Corinthians 11:34, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment; And the rest I will set in order when I come;" Titus 1:5, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you."
Jolly enjoyed hearing the word "apostle" used in reference to him. A visiting minister from Haiti once referred to Jolly as the latter-day-apostle. Jolly beamed and glowed as if he believed it himself. He never tried to discourage praise or worship directed toward him personally. Perhaps in his youth, he may have been embarrassed by such idolization, but as he grew older, he expected it. Some of the ludicrous idolatry was repeated so often that Jolly came to believe it himself.
Jolly often contradicted himself in the same message, and did so to a greater extent over time. Early in his ministry he taught and prophecied with impunity. He thought he was the latter-day-apostle and he boldly prophecied that Jesus would return in 1992. He finally admitted to being wrong about the return date as it drew near, but excused the error by saying he had been closer than anyone else who had predicted it. He exacerbated the error by predicting a new date of 2030 for the return of Christ. The error did not mellow him any. If anything, it made him more irascible than ever.
As young preachers, Jolly and Beryl Clark both believed in predestination. The scriptures they used for this belief are found in Romans 8:29, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren," and II Timothy 1:9, "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." Jolly convinced his followers that these scriptures applied to the Gospel Assembly churches. He preached that Gospel Assembly had been predestinated to restore the church that Jesus established in the first century A. D. He emphasized that he and the other leaders of Gospel Assembly had all the truth of the Bible and that other churches would have to come to him and his church if they wanted to be saved.
Eventually, Clark and Jolly began to disagree on the idea of predestination. Clark held to the theory until his death, but Jolly changed his mind. To emphasize this change in Jolly's thinking, an incident that occurred in St. Louis is being related. Wayne's younger brother was visiting that church and was asked to talk during a testimony service. When he began speaking about the predestination that he had learned from Beryl Clark in the church at DuQuoin, Jolly rose up and rebuked him for saying it. That was one example of Jolly changing his mind.
Jolly preached that it was possible for a person to die before it was his time to be taken. He could not get that concept to agree with the theory on predestination so he relinquished his belief on the latter. With predestination, a person is to live the amount of time God has preordained for him. Jolly found that drugs, alcohol, chemicals, food and other things altered human lives and perhaps the theory of predestination had been wrong. He also taught that people can bring the wrath of God on themselves by sinning, so he could no longer hold to the idea that each person has a set time to die. Perhaps the deterioration of his own body by diabetes and heart failure convinced him that one could die before his time.
An amusing incident that blew his earlier theory of predestination out of the water was something that happened in the fall of 1990. A man by the name of Iban Browning had predicted an earthquake along the New Madrid fault line during the first week of December 1990. The story made all the newspapers in Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois where the fault line was known to exist. Jolly read the story and immediately began to warn the church members about the coming earthquake. He was afraid for his own life as he predicted the imminency of the earthquake. Those who consulted Jolly privately were told to leave the area until after the earthquake. Church members began to talk about the coming earthquake and how much damage it was going to cause. Special prayers were offered up to protect the church members during the quake. Jolly was so frightened that he quickly scheduled a meeting for all of the ministers under his direction at a location in Panama City, Florida during the first week of December. Normally the meeting in that Florida city was held during the month of February, but the urgency of the quake peril caused him to change. The membership in Eldorado was aghast that their leaders had all forsaken them in the midst of an expected emergency and gone to Florida to escape it. Some were never able to forgive Jolly for that cowardly act. Ultimately, some could see that the man they had considered a messenger of God was actually a weak and pitiful human being without principal or love for his fellow man.
That act of cowardice, along with the false prophecy of the return of Jesus, weakened Jolly's hold on the congregation. Before his admission of being wrong about the prophecy, he claimed that he had never said it in the first place. When a number of persons called his hand on it, he called them liars. He could not wiggle out of a situation when his recorded messages were in the hands of hundreds of his followers.
Another piece of church doctrine that he revised in the last years of his ministry was the definition of the Body of Christ. He had always contended that the Gospel Assembly church was the Body of Christ exclusively. This agreed with William Sowders' earlier definition. One of Jolly's preachers challenged Jolly publicly about the change in doctrine, but grudgingly accepted it at Jolly's urging.
The new doctrine promulgated by Jolly was that all Pentecostal churches were in the Body of Christ. He held up a sheet of paper with a large circle drawn on it. Inside the large circle were several smaller circles. He now proclaimed that the Gospel Assembly church was represented by one of the small circles inside the larger circle. The other small circles were other Pentecostal churches. He reiterated that sons and daughters of God should speak in tongues in order to belong to the Body of Christ. This essentially eliminated most Protestants and Catholics. It wasn't just the one preacher that had a hard time swallowing the new definition after all those years. Many of the membership rebelled at this new notion after believing for years that they were the chosen ones. This was a drastic change in the basic doctrine of the church and defiance should have been expected. When Jolly made up his mind to do a certain thing, he rammed it down the members' throats, regardless of how impalpable it was. Most of the time he met little resistance to his ideas, and when he did, it was usually a feeble effort by a handful of people.
When Jolly introduced a new time for Christ's return in the year 2030, he looked at the audience with a big smile on his face and announced that most would not be alive for the event. He figured he would be safe with that prophesy under those circumstances. He was counting on both himself and the congregation being out of the picture in that length of time and he couldn't be held accountable. He self-assuredly told everyone to mark their calendars because 2030 would definitely be the year. By the time Jolly got around to making that new prophecy, Wayne had lost all faith in any of his statements.
As stated previously, Jolly had taught for years that Jesus would come back to claim the Gospel Assembly members as His bride. Along with that message was the necessity to be overcomers free from sin and living in a state of perfection. These precepts fascinated the audiences during the latter years of Sowders' ministry and the early years of Jolly's ministry, but in time, the message wore thin. Early on, the congregation grew at a sizable rate, but after a few years the crowds thinned and Jolly had to come up with something else to attract attention. He began to talk more about resurrection rather than his earlier theme of being "caught away" with Jesus.
His surmisal was that the earth itself would be renewed by God during the twenty-first century. He vociferously described how this restored earth would become heaven to those who resurrect. During the thousand-year period, according to Jolly, there will be numerous wars, pestilence, natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions which will purify the earth for the benefit of God's elect. He even threw in a few atomic and hydrogen bomb explosions to make sure all uncleanliness is wiped away from the earth. This renovation would eliminate most of the population.
Jolly went on to say that a small number of Jewish Christians will get the message of Christ from the Gospel Assembly preachers before the refurbishing takes place. These Jewish Christians are then to spread the gospel to their fellow Jews and this will allow them to live during the renewal process. They are supposed to form the nucleus of a perfect church that will welcome Gospel Assembly members when they resurrect. These Jews, according to Jolly, will have overcome and be living perfect lives in the sight of God.
Jolly's description of this renovated earth, which he calls the new earth, will be like the Garden of Eden described in the Bible. He described the fruit of the land in terms of bananas as long as one's arms, and oranges as big as watermelons. The believers are supposed to resurrect with a body equivalent to a healthy 30-year-old. He went on to say that those who die as infants or as teenagers will automatically age so that they inhabit a 30-year-old body; those who died in old age will regress back to the 30-year-old body. Where he found the basis for such a prescription is unknown. He could not justify his hypothesis from the Bible.
Jolly also informed his followers that all persons who accept Christ will resurrect, but many will resurrect to damnation rather than to eternal life because they refused Jolly's message. He told his group that they would be the only ones who will recognize Jesus, so it will be up to them to help lead the other resurrected Christians to Christ and eternal life. Jolly's favorite scripture for justifying the elitist of Gospel Assembly members was Matthew 20:16, "for many be called but few chosen." This elite group was to be given the perfect order of God, the perfect order of worship, the channel of God's Spirit, and the main role in leading others toward eternal life.
As Jolly aged, he lost his ability to captivate audiences as he did in earlier times. His sermons degenerated into repetitious stories of his childhood and his youthful experiences in the ministry. When he wasn't reminiscing about his youth, he was reading some nonsensical statistic. These statistics could cover anything from how many loaves of bread were used in the dining room to how many doors there were in the church building. Another area of interest was the description of his dreams and the dreams others had about him. He was positive he could interpret any dream described to him.
One of Jolly's favorite dreams was the one some lady had about him and William Sowders. In her dream she saw William Sowders using a large axe, saw and other large tools in the process of cutting down a tree. He began carving an image into the trunk of the tree, but was unable to finish the image because his tools were too large and inadequate for such delicate work. The lady, in her dream, began to use fine carving tools to complete the image Sowders had started. Jolly believed that the dream was meant for him. He projected himself into the dream in place of the lady as the one chosen to complete Sowders' work. How he made the transition from the lady's dream to apply to himself was never made clear. The irony of the story was that both Sowders and Jolly would have rejected the idea of a woman taking any role in the church, so he had to project himself into the dream to make it fit his interpretation.
Jolly also dreamed that he was an inmate in a prison. The dream was quite lengthy and will not be described in detail for the sake of brevity. Jolly claimed that the dream was from the Lord and confirmed his role as apostle, much in the same manner that Paul had been given his qualifying authority. He used the scripture in Ephesians 4:1, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherein ye are called." In his estimation, the dream gave him the authority to preach anywhere and in any church as long as he agreed to return to Eldorado as his home base.
When Jolly tired of relating his repertoire of stories and dreams, he resorted to giving his listeners work assignments. He directed the members to complete word studies. He found certain words that were intriguing to him, so he assigned the word to his congregation for further study. He liked to point out the various meanings of certain words and how they relate to the Christian experience. The Bible was used primarily as the source of words for the word studies.
Some individuals spent hours and days completing the word studies. One dear old lady who was a close friend of Wayne and Mandel spent a great deal of time on the word studies. She set her alarm for 4:00 A.M. so that she could get an early start on her word study. She meticulously copied all the scriptures from the Bible which contained the chosen word. With the help of her concordance, she would progress through the Bible, copying down in longhand all the passages with the particular word assigned. She often completed several pages of penciled entries onto lined pages.
This lady faithfully carried her copies to church on Thursday night so that they could be presented to Jolly. She was thrilled by the mere fact that Jolly accepted them from her. It would be hard to speculate the total number of hours and days she spent in such activity, but she enjoyed the work and, especially, the fact that Jolly acted as though he approved of what she was doing. It would not have surprised Wayne very much to have learned that Jolly tossed the handwritten sheets into the wastebasket as soon as the lady was out of his sight.
Sometimes, Jolly recognized that he could neither cajole or coerce his audience into believing or accepting a precept, so he would resort to a procrastinator's trick. He would admonish his members to put the idea onto the shelf for later consideration. He believed that if he could get the people to reconsider the idea later, then he still had the chance of convincing them it was right. Wayne found himself putting so many things on the shelf that there was very little he could accept at its first introduction. He became discouraged by the fact that he could swallow so little of what Jolly was disseminating.
On the contrary, it was evident that this method of putting things on the shelf was a soothing balm for others who had problems with certain concepts. They were comforted with the song, "We'll Understand It Better By and By." Wayne was troubled because he wanted to understand it now. Subsequently, the maj ority of the members were convinced that even though they may not have the capacity to understand a concept at the present time, they would eventually be able to comprehend it with God's help. This tactic often rescued Jolly from open insurrection.
Jolly was never completely secure in his role as the leader because he frequently exhorted his members about the possibility that they may "chase off after another preacher." He questioned his members often about their loyalty to him. He pointed his finger at the congregation and accused them of being so ignorant that many would follow any fly-by-night preacher who came along. Although he exercised firm control of the church members, he never was secure enough to assume they would stay with him.
He was paranoid about members or nonmembers starting false rumors about him. He repeatedly told his assemblage that the citizens of Eldorado hated the Gospel Assembly church. Wayne couldn't understand why he kept saying that until he finally realized that Jolly was attempting to isolate the church members from the community-at-large. Many of the rumors that circulated were based on the truth about his misbehavior, yet the membership would not accept it. They believed the rumors were started by Jolly's enemies and thus were false.
In addition to the many written rules that Jolly circulated among his churches, there were unwritten rules adapted by the members. These emerged from suggestions made during his sermons, or as a result of his discipline of an individual. When a person was singled out for rebuke or harassment, everyone learned that the particular behavior that got the person in trouble was to be avoided. The avoidance process became a strict rule of behavior, even when it was not written down. Much of the comportment then developed as dictated by the way the members perceived Jolly's wishes. With experience, the members calculated what Jolly's likes and dislikes were and acted accordingly. They vicariously attributed what they imagined was the will of Jolly and called it God's will.
There is a similar phenomenon in the business world wherein unwritten rules establish a pecking order for pay increases, advancement and incentives. Wayne experienced that process during the 30 years he spent in state government, yet none was as pronounced and hard core as the one established in the Gospel Assembly church.
When certain members gained Jolly's favor, they were the ones that others wanted to imitate. They were also the ones that others looked to for an avenue to speak with Jolly or to influence his decisions. As Wayne gradually recognized what was going on in the church, he chose not to become a part of the subtle processes upon which Jolly built his power base.
Jolly dabbled into many areas other than religious affairs. He was an avid Republican and encouraged his flock to vote that way. He invited politicians into the annual anniversary meetings since these were scheduled right before the fall elections. He admired President Richard Nixon and frequently referred to him as Brother Nixon. He was crushed when Nixon was forced to resign from the Presidency. He turned on him and made all sorts of disparaging remarks about him from the pulpit. He just couldn't understand how Brother Nixon had let him down in that manner.
Jolly had warned his congregation not to vote for John F. Kennedy because he was positive that the Catholic Pope would rule the country if Kennedy was elected. Wayne was not attending the Gospel Assembly church at that time, but he was contacted by his parents who told him about the warning from Jolly. Wayne was a registered Republican then, and yet, the very idea of a preacher telling people how to vote caused him to revolt. He angrily cast his ballot for Kennedy to show his parents and the church that no one could tell him how to vote.
It was out-of-character for Jolly to back a Republican because his predecessor, William Sowders, had predicted there would be no more Republicans in the White House. Jolly was skeptical of Wayne when he first came back to Gospel Assembly, mainly because he was a government employee. When he found out that Wayne was friends with the Republicans and had some influence in that regard, Jolly readily accepted him. Wayne was able to get Governor James Thompson to write Jolly a personal letter of commendation for his fiftieth anniversary as the minister in Eldorado. Jolly was so delighted that he wanted Wayne to read the letter at the annual enclave. Wayne declined the invitation and urged him to have one of his preachers read the letter. He decided to just read the letter himself, beaming and emphasizing every adjective used to describe his accomplishments. The letter had been hand delivered by the area legislative representative who wanted to read it. Amazingly, Jolly refused that offer for some unknown reason.
The only time he truly seemed to be enjoying a church service was when he was receiving the adoration of those he was leading. Although he did seem to relish the act of engaging in the rebuking or degradation of those he disliked, he fed on these two ego building processes. His followers indulged him in the first one and he humored himself with the second one. He was revered and venerated in all the churches under his control. When he visited these churches, located in various parts of the country, they all welcomed him with lavish meals and ceremonial songs and speeches. Church members worked for weeks in advance, cleaning and polishing to make everything look its best. Some church members told Wayne that they even cleaned the song books for Jolly's visits. Members were warned to be on their best behavior during the visit. During one of Jolly's trips, the local song leader wrote new words to the song, "We Appreciate You" by Ellis J. Crum to direct attention to Jolly. The song was written by Mr. Crum to give honor and appreciation to God. The church members sang the song to Jolly telling him that they would worship and adore him and bow down before him.
Jolly was excessively suspicious of those who were in disagreement with him. The ministers who had the courage to separate themselves from Jolly became targets for his wrath. He was terrified that these men would somehow undermine him and steal members from him. He incessantly referred to those ministers and their followers as "the other side" as if he represented the right side and they represented the wrong side. Jolly put his trust in only a very few close associates. It was obvious from his speech and his actions that he did not trust all those who followed him. He relied on spies within the congregation to report anything that was out of the order he wished.
The church members knew who were serving as the spies and found it amusing at times to start a false rumor to see how fast it would be included in one of Jolly's sermons. Wayne played that game on occasion. He deliberately made remarks about something that displeased him within the hearing of a certain woman. She could hardly contain herself until she could get to a telephone to call Jolly in St. Louis. An elderly gentleman attended the men's Sunday School class for the express purpose of reporting the proceedings to Jolly. The man was often a target of Jolly's barbs and may have felt as though he needed to be an informant to Jolly in order to stop the embarrassing ridicule. The man never earned Jolly's respect and his fellow church members were wary of him.
Jolly began prophesying his own death in 1990. Wayne's notes include an entry on May 31, 1990 which quotes Jolly as saying he wouldn't live much longer. He had begun to realize that his health was failing and age was taking its toll. He also had come to the realization that the things about which he had prophesied were not to be fulfilled in his lifetime. It was likely that he, also, was much more wary of the fact that his followers would learn that he was a pedophile. He had experienced a number of treatments for heart failure and diabetes. He had been fitted with a pacemaker for his heart, and he was on a regular schedule for insulin injections. These were things he could not hide from the church-at-large.
When Wayne first met Jolly during the 1940's at the Shepherdsville campgrounds, he remembered him by the fact that he was the little, short, chubby fellow that followed William Sowders around everywhere. Jolly remained overweight until he developed diabetes and was forced to control it. When he had slimmed down, he could not tolerate overweight people.
Jolly preached numerous sermons about gluttony and fat people. He upbraided preachers who were married to fat wives. He acted as though these husbands could control the weight of the women to whom they were married. It was embarrassing for the preachers, their wives, and the congregation to listen to such ranting, but no one ever dared to contradict him. He basked in the glory of his own self-righteousness when, in fact, he would have continued to be overweight himself were it not for his health problems. His "holier than thou" attitude toward heavy people was something everyone resented.
Some of the ministers tried to introduce weight loss agendas in the local churches in addition to those in St. Louis and Eldorado. Wayne's mother, Thelma, was overweight all of her life and these sermons on weight loss were the only ones that Wayne saw his mother reject. Even though her preacher made her feel inferior and ugly, she still thought he was right to do so. Jolly took a devious delight in surveying his audience for fat women to harangue. He called them fat slobs from the pulpit. Wayne felt that both he and the other church members had to share in the blame for Jolly's actions simply by the fact that everyone sat still and allowed such outrageous behavior to continue.
When Jolly sensed that the majority of his audience was either repulsed or in disagreement about whatever he was wrangling, he would revert to verbal abuse of those in attendance. He once told a large crowd of people that they were all just one step ahead of being idiots. Wayne was among the listeners. Jolly could be obviously wrong about a matter, yet assumed that everyone was out of step except himself.
An incident is related here as an example. Jolly considered himself an expert on the judicial system of the federal government. He compared the workings of the United States Supreme Court to his own tribunal system within the church. There was little to compare, but he did it anyway. He told his audiences that the Congress of the United States could not pass a law without first sending it to the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the law. Even grammar school students in the audience knew better than that, but no one would venture to tell him he was wrong. He liked to compare himself as being the final authority on church decisions just as the Supreme Court had final authority on the law of the land.
Jolly directed his followers to write down for future reference all the data that he gave them. Wayne learned in time that the statistics Jolly gave out over the pulpit were not reliable and could not stand the test of accountability. Jolly especially liked statistics that supported his theories. He kept statistics on everything pertaining to his ministry and the churches he supervised.
Jolly encouraged his supporters to send him notes with data covering every imaginable subject. Ushers were kept busy delivering notes to Jolly from church members. When he emerged from his private quarters just prior to the church service, his hands and pockets were full of notes of all types. Some of the notes contained material that his church spies had collected. He bragged that he never threw a note away. Members who had been able to sneak a peek into his private room and living quarters reported that his bed, desk, tables, and carpet were littered with hundreds of notes. He often interrupted a talk to search for a note in his pocket. Occasionally, he sent the assistant pastor to look for a note in his room if it couldn't be found on his person. Often as not, neither he nor the assistant could find the note he wanted among the hundreds he kept.
Jolly covered up his deviant behavior rather well from most of the church membership. He hid behind his role as the leader and used his Bible interpretations to gloss over anything questionable. He took scripture and made it say whatever he wanted. When he was caught in wrong doing, he always turned it around to make it appear as if the one who found him out was in the wrong rather than himself.
One of his ploys was to point out to everyone that they were slaves to their own carnal nature. He called this nature, "the old man." The references are in Romans 6:6, "Knowing this, our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin," Ephesians 4:22, "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." Jolly taught that humans can overcome their nature and be perfect before God. According to him, his words could be accepted as truth and this would give one power to replace his own nature with God's nature. To accomplish this, it was necessary to undergo something Jolly called the "baptism of fire."
This baptism of fire was one of the three baptisms taught as church doctrine. The other two were the baptism of the Holy Ghost and water baptism. The order of receipt was water first, Holy Ghost second and baptism of fire last. Not much in the Bible refers to a baptism of fire, but Jolly used a scripture to support this contention. It was I Corinthians 3:13, "Each one's work will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is." He interpreted this to mean that grief, suffering, loss and hurt are instruments of the baptism of fire. Jolly told the people that their fleshly nature had to be burned away so that the soul could be purified. He justified his practice of rebuking and verbally abusing his congregation as means of undergoing the baptism of fire. He said these unpleasant experiences were being directed by God rather than by Jolly. Another scripture that Jolly referred to in his explanation of the baptism of fire was found in Exodus 12:8, "Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." The bitter herbs represent the enduring adversity experienced by church members of Gospel Assembly.
He emphasized God's hate more than God's love. He and his ministers poked fun at the television preachers who dwelt on the love of God. He derisively mocked any preacher who quoted the passage of scripture that says God is love. He once saw a bumper sticker on a car which said, "Jesus Loves You." The bumper sticker irritated him. He said that it would be better to place a bumper sticker on one's car that said, "God Hates You." He continued that worshipers should sing more often about the hate of God rather than so much about the love of God. He suggested that a member of the audience compose a song about the hate of God and sing it in church.
There were certain members that would do anything Jolly told them, so an elderly lady composed a God hate song. Wayne could not believe his ears when this lady rose from her pew and began to sing her composition about the hate of God. She encouraged others to sing along with her, but only about a half dozen joined in. This incident illustrates the gullibility of Gospel Assembly church members to the suggestions of Jolly.
At various times in Jolly's ministry, groups of dissidents left him. Often, it was with his blessing. When they couldn't endure his abuse and strict doctrine, he even encouraged some to leave. He told the ones who remained that the church was being purged by God to get rid of the troublemakers. Those who were purged were referred to as bluejon and those who stayed were called the cream of the crop. For those not familiar with the term, "bluejon," it should be noted that this is the bluish-watery skim milk left over when cream is separated from whole milk. The preachers who carried on after Jolly's departure still tell their congregations that God must purge out those who can't fully support the Gospel Assembly church.
On one occasion after one of the purges, Jolly pontificated that God had shown him that certain members would be shaken out. He even went so far as to say that God had told him the church needed to be shaken and asked Jolly if he minded. Jolly said that he agreed to God's plan to shake the church and his large congregation was reduced considerably in the process. He used that gambit to appease the members who stayed and told them they were really the ones God wanted in the church, anyway. This served to strengthen the remaining membersí faith in Jolly because they believed that God had spared them in the purging. It is hard to imagine that anyone could be so susceptible to a manís fairy tale, but there were many who believed Jolly.
Members were warned that if they ever left Gospel Assembly, they would be doomed to damnation. According to church leaders, the only way to escape the damnation was to return to the Gospel Assembly church and repent. This repenting process included a return to the altar where one begged God to forgive them. Next, the straying member was expected to go before the church body and confess his sin and ask the church to forgive him. This is the process that Wayne underwent when he returned to the DuQuoin Gospel Assembly church in 1981. For the 25 years that Wayne and Mandel were away from the church, they believed that they would be lost until they returned to that church. This ritual is still followed in all the Gospel Assembly churches. Recently, a young man stood before the congregation in Eldorado and asked forgiveness. He had become entangled in some unlawful activities at work and believed the reason he got in trouble was because he had left Gospel Assembly.
Members were also warned that if they ever did leave Gospel Assembly, the absolute worst thing they could do was to join another church. This was worse than backsliding. Joining with another church was likened to making a pact with the devil. Members were drilled in the concept that they had the impeccable truth from the Bible at Gospel Assembly. Joining another church was rejection of that truth. Wayne and Mandel joined another church after leaving Gospel Assembly and they are nagged by the ghosts of the doctrine that was instilled in them for many years. The shadow of doubt remains because the false teaching was made a part of their lives from childhood until they left it in 1992. The open wounds that resulted from participation in the cult called Gospel Assembly are healed, but the scars remain a constant reminder of the power of suggestion.
Jolly encouraged his followers to give him gifts of money, yet, he forbid them to contribute to television evangelists or to foreign missions. He lambasted the media for showing pictures of starving people in other lands. He said that all those starving children were the result of someone's sexual lust and therefore were not worthy of help from Christian people. Jolly realized that if money was contributed to such charitable causes, it would reduce the amount of money he received from the church members. Jolly had little sympathy for anyone who was down-and-out for whatever reason. Occasionally, he would dole out small amounts of cash to church members who were desperately in need. This was the exception rather than the rule.
Jolly emphasized his contempt for the homeless by telling an experience he had with an old man he found rummaging in the church garbage can for food. Jolly offered to take the man to a restaurant for a meal and to take him to the Goodwill Store for a change of clothing. The old man kept searching in the trash and said, "No, thanks." Jolly offered this as proof that the poor of the world are happy with their circumstance and will not improve, even when offered help. Wayne reproved some church members who were agreeing with Jolly on that point. The old man had recognized that Jolly's offer was a one-time event and would not help him further. He knew that he would have to continue on the streets with one meal and a change of clothes, with no hope for the future. He chose not to salve Jolly's conscience with that brief act of charity. Wayne admired the old man for his stance. Jolly had convoluted the man's response into a theory about humanity from a single incident.
Jolly was once mugged by an African-American male just outside the church building in St. Louis. From this, he developed a deep hatred for the entire race. He didn't even try to hide his prejudice toward black people after that incident. During a general gathering of Gospel Assembly members in Louisville, Kentucky, he related the story of his mugging. He referred to his assailant as a big black nig -- and then realized there were blacks in his audience and changed, in mid-sentence, by calling the man a big black gorilla.
Jolly's prejudice toward African-Americans found acceptance in the Eldorado church, because for many years there were no members of that race living in the town. Wayne was puzzled by the deep prejudice among the church members, even though there were some African-American members of the church in various sections of the country. In all probability, they could feel Jolly's prejudice come through, even when he was trying to hide it. Several of Jolly's preachers also were very prejudiced in that regard. When Wayne was a member of the choir in Eldorado, he heard a choir member and a visiting preacher telling ethnic jokes prior to the start of the church service. Wayne tried to show his disapproval through facial expression, but they were not deterred. When the church service started, they sang, prayed and worshiped as if their behavior before the church service had nothing to do with it. Their expression of hatred toward their fellow man showed the real persons behind the fake religious individuals.
It was difficult to tell whether Jolly had any human compassion. He often told the story about a woman whose child died in infancy. The grieving woman had come to Jolly for solace and asked him if he thought her child was in heaven. He answered her by saying that little babies just die and that is the end of them unless their parents happened to have the Holy Ghost. In this instance, he knew she didn't claim the Holy Ghost. So, in his opinion, the child would never exist again. To those claiming the Holy Ghost, he told them that their children who had not reached the age of accountability before death would resurrect. He further stated that children who had reached the point where they could distinguish right from wrong would be accountable for their sins. He stated many times from the pulpit that it was wrong to tell unsaved parents that their deceased children were in heaven. He provided no basis for this from the Bible. In many instances, he expressed his opinionated remarks just to see how much he could shock his audience. He laughingly remarked, "The very idea of mothers thinking their little babies are in heaven looking down on us."
Jolly developed an idea to manipulate church members' interest in property so that he could gain control of it. He advised every church member to draw up a final will and testament. He even managed to provide forms for that purpose through one of the church members who was a secretary to a lawyer. He told the congregation that he was concerned that their legal property might fall into the wrong hands when the members died. He advised the members to make the Gospel Assembly church the heir to all real and personal property owned by them. He justified this by telling the members that their ungodly relatives would just fight over their assets anyway, and it would be better that the property go to the church.
He carried this one step further and advised that church members should not include their own children in the will if those children were not Gospel Assembly church members. It is impossible to estimate how many individuals followed Jolly's advice, yet, it is certain that a large number did. Jolly could be very persuasive through the forcible indoctrination of his ideas toward the church members. Wayne and Mandel decided at one point to follow Jolly's advice and devise a will that would leave everything to the Gospel Assembly church in Eldorado. Ultimately, Wayne figured out Jolly's furtive scheme to enrich himself by inheriting members' property and dropped the idea of willing assets to the church.